Well, this week is suicide prevention week, and today is world suicide prevention day, so I figured I’d take a little bit of time to talk about that.
As a culture we attempt suicide prevention in numerous ways: fundraising for prevention, crisis hotlines, and information on how people can get help. These are all incredibly important and I am certain that each one of these efforts made have saved countless lives. What I want to talk about, though, is a more hidden problem – one that stops people from getting help when they need it.
Last week I read a blog by someone talking about the stigma she and those around her faced due to their mental health status. Because she and others came forward and asked for help when they needed it they now have a “blemish” on their records: a hospitalization, a diagnosis, medication. These individual things probably saved these people’s lives, but today, now that these people are getting better and trying to move on with their lives, these “blemishes” are actively stopping them. Having a hospitalization or a certain diagnosis or medication on record can stop a person from getting a desired job, from volunteering, and even negatively affect future medical treatment. I have seen this happen to people around me, and I have seen people refuse to get treatment for this very reason.
There is a whole segment of the population who knows what the resources are, and in many cases knows that something is mentally wrong that maybe could be fixed, but these people feel like they can’t seek treatment because of the future stigma it will afford them. This is not acceptable. We can’t keep talking about how we need to help, and creating campaigns to help people with mental illness, and then punish them for asking for help once they are feeling more stable.
We need to change this. We need people to feel comfortable coming forward and asking for help. Any person–from the homeless person to the police to the doctor to the businessperson and everything in between–should be able to ask for help with their mental health and receive medication or even a hospital stay if necessary and know that the help they received will not negatively impact their future in any way.
Societies assumptions need to change. We need to accept that a person with a mental illness can move past that and move on. If we can’t accept that how do we expect the person who is suicidal now to believe that things will be different in the future.
We need to stop the stigma.
As it is suicide prevention week and I am talking about suicide, I feel like I should post the relevant resources to anyone who might need help or someone to talk to:
USA: 24 hour hotline: 1-800-784-2433
UK: The Samaritans are a 24 hotline: 08457 90 90 90
Worldwide: Website providing links for hotlines worldwide.