L. Warrington

Stop the Stigma

By changing our state of mind, we can save others from theirs.

Suicide claims the life of a person in the United States every 12.3 minutes. That's 117 people every single day. It's more than those claimed by war, murder, and natural disasters combined (“Suicide Facts and Figures”).

So why aren't we doing something about it? What is keeping us from preventing deaths that are completely avoidable?

This elusive, invisible force is the stigma that hovers over those with mental disorders. We know it is there, but we never acknowledge it. There are so many out there who feel trapped, lost, afraid, and hopeless. They feel like they cannot reach out to those around them for fear of being considered weak, broken, or crazy. The rest of society tip-toes around them carefully, avoiding the taboo of suicide and thoughts related to it. They think that the depressed are just sadder, and that the anxious are just more nervous than the average person. They assume that it is just a phase, and that they will move on from it after some time.

These assumptions are false, of course. Mental disorders are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. The main treatments for these conditions are therapy and medication. The stigma that surrounds mental illness is such an enormous problem because those who are mentally ill often do not seek treatment because of their environment, and what they have been told about mental disorders. For example, many teens are afraid to open up to their parents about their depression because they do not want to be seen as a flawed child, or a disappointment. Even if people do have a therapist, they keep this hidden from those who are not close to them. Someone can tell their colleagues about their health problems and normal doctor’s appointments, but they never feel that they can mention having a therapist for fear of being ostracized.

The worst aspect of suicide is that it is always preventable. Those that know someone that dies by suicide often regret not having reached out to that person, or are shocked because they never saw that person show signs of being suicidal. We need to raise awareness everywhere, especially schools and businesses, that mental health is just as important as physical health. We need to make those with mental disorders feel safer, and those without them less judgmental. This way, more people will reach out to each other and seek treatment, and less people will die by suicide.

And yes, it should be die by suicide and not commit suicide. Commit sounds like a crime is being inferred, and those who do choose to end their own life are not really choosing— they are submitting to their seemingly irredeemable state of mind.

“Suicide Facts and Figures.” Out of the Darkness Walks, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2016, www.theovernight.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=cms.page&id=1034.