Mental illness is one of the main risk factors for suicide.
Stigma still surrounds mental illness. It still needs attention. It still needs to be discussed openly without judgment. It deserves the time on TV that Stand Up 2 Cancer gets. It deserves the time the Muscular Distrophy Association gets. Easter Seals and every other medical condition with TV fundraising/awareness specials.
Robin Williams is gone and the only people still talking about how he died are the people affected by mental illness. Either those diagnosed or their loved ones. Yes, it’s great to be nostalgic for the days when Robin entertained us as Mork from Ork and encouraged free-thinkers in Dead Poet’s Society. I’m nostalgic for the days when my cousin was still a baby and the days when he made me laugh as he got older. I can be nostalgic all I want, but it doesn’t change the fact that both of them committed suicide.
People say how “tragic” Robin’s death is. What about all the celebrities who died of “accidental overdose”? Those deaths were tragic and the same theme runs through all those deaths. Would our beloved comedy genius still be with us if this topic wasn’t still taboo? If all those accidental overdoses had been ruled “overdose” and we faced the root of the problem instead of the end result? If we didn’t moan about the tragedy until they were buried and threw the topic in the grave with them, covering it with dirt and forgetting about it?
What if we were as open about mental illness as we are about cancer? What would the discussion look like? What would change for those who need services? What would change with insurance coverage for said services? What would change for those in rural areas with inadequate access to needed services?
“Social, psychological, cultural and other factors can interact to lead a person to suicidal behaviour, but the stigma attached to mental disorders and suicide means that many people feel unable to seek help. Despite the evidence that many deaths are preventable, suicide is too often a low priority for governments and policy-makers.” –Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative, World Health Organization, 2014
All it takes is 1 time for an attempt to be successful.
804,000 people take their own lives every year. That’s about 1 person every 40 seconds. Several people will have taken their own lives by the time you finish reading this post. For every 1 person committing suicide there are approximately 20 who attempt suicide. That’s 1,600,000 attempts per year.
“Health-care services need to incorporate suicide prevention as a core component. Mental disorders and harmful use of alcohol contribute to many suicides around the world. Early identification and effective management are key to ensuring that people receive the care they need.
Communities play a critical role in suicide prevention. They can provide social support to vulnerable individuals and engage in follow-up care, fight stigma and support those bereaved by suicide.” –Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative, World Heath Organization, 2014
What will it take for you to do something? To make this as important as finding a cure for cancer.
Whatever it is, don’t wait for someone you love to commit suicide before doing something.
The time is NOW.
Links to suicide prevention and behavioral health resources: