I was deeply grieved to learn that ANOTHER young man – a son, a brother, a husband, a father, in my community took his life earlier this week. I didn’t know him personally but I do know people with whom he was close friends who are hurting today.
We have a real problem, people. It’s a complex problem for which I do not claim to have the answer but I am abundantly sure that I have one devastating piece to the puzzle.
Mental illness carries a tremendous negative stigma that causes people to keep their experiences secret. I am guilty of this in that my own family has experienced great difficulty that even some of my close friends and family are not aware of. The privacy is for protection from judgment because the judgment is all but guaranteed, fierce, and only adds to already overwhelming pain.
How many Go Fund Me pages have you seen in the last week to help families whose dads, mamas, or kids have cancer? We rally around each other when our loved ones are sick, when an organ in the body is unwell. We should. We need each other.
But isn’t the brain an organ? Last time I taught biology, it was right there in the textbook! Then why when someone’s brain is unwell, do we pull away?
Real talk here – We are AFRAID of anyone who struggles with any form of mental illness. We chalk them up as crazy and block them off, hoping their crazy doesn’t rub off somehow like a virus; probably because we are terrified to give our own crazy a centimeter of room to breathe.
It’s not working. It’s not working because we are falling like flies. Memes intended as encouragement like “God will not give you more than you can handle” or “This too shall pass” pour pepper in wounds.
It’s not working.
I offer that shedding the stigma, actually more like stamping it out with the steel toe of a boot, might be one tiny step toward helping those who struggle. If we felt free to share when we were spinning out and thought that we would be embraced instead of judged, we might find an essential thread of hope. If we could say in plain English that death feels like the only answer, and then be surrounded by intense love instead of feared or shamed, would it change how far gone, how depleted we are before we reach out? I think so or actually, KNOW so.
If there is no shame in heart disease, or cancer, or toe fungus, then why the shame about mental illness?
I challenge you to ask yourself if you need an update to your thinking.
And if you are hurting, ask for help NOW. If you don’t know who can help, call The National Suicide Prevention Helpline. They are a free, nationwide, 24 hour a day service.
If you’ve shied away from someone you love that struggles with mental illness, call them now and remind them how treasured they are in your heart. It could save their life.
#NationalSuicidePreventionHelpline #SuicidePrevention #GetHelp #MentalIllness #PreventSuicide #DropTheStigma #NoShame #BeTheChange