Suicide Awareness Month: Losing the Stigma Around Mental Illness

Image Source: Greensburg Daily News

Image Source: Greensburg Daily News

Analise Bruno, Editor-in-Chief

Globally, suicide is currently the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. Between 1999 and 2014 the rate of adolescent suicide has practically doubled, and only now is this cause of death finally being recognized as a public health issue. The crisis has certainly spurred the creation of many programs and organizations looking to raise awareness for teen suicide through community centers and schools. However, despite this, there still seems to be no decline in this second leading cause of death amongst 15-22 year-olds. There is a multitude of factors such as inadequate access to materials for prevention, insufficient resources for mental health care, and the ignorance and stigma attached to mental illnesses as a whole.

September is Suicide Awareness Month, and while global statistics may not changing, that does not mean we can’t help. One reason suicide happens to be so devastating is because it is a kind of tragic end that could have been prevented had others been aware of what troubles some were facing. The most common reasons that people are driven to take their own life has a lot to do with elements like perfectionism, hopelessness, depression, fear, bullying, etc. Suicide is a seemingly unforeseen tragedy, one many ponder and remain devastated over for long periods, but is it really that unpredictable? It wasn’t until just recently that there was a public health policy in place regarding, largely due to the stigma associated with the act. Suicide is often perceived as selfish and idiosyncratic in nature, and therefore, many are unwilling to discuss and obtain an awareness for it, which, as we well know, only increases the statistics. 

With over 30,000 deaths in the US being attributed to suicide annually, I would argue that the problem, unlike some other illnesses such as cancer or heart disease, starts right in front of our eyes. Suicidal individuals don’t all fit one mold, each one of them is not visibly depressed, or stray away from everyone else as portrayed in the media today. Those truly suffering from mental health issues look just like everyone else, but carry with them certain subtle warning signs. However, it is our unwillingness to acknowledge these warning signs and ignorance of mental illness as a whole due to negative stereotypes that enable others to suffer in silence and hence increase the ongoing crisis.

There are many things we know about suicide, but not always enough to prevent more from occurring every day. We all owe it to those who lost their lives after feeling so hopeless and upset that they felt the only way things could get better was by removing themselves from the world to take accountability by learning the warning signs and breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illness. 

Some key signs to note in friends and those around you are:

  1. Depressed or hopeless mood
  2. Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  3. Withdrawing from social situations
  4. Giving away personal possessions
  5. Losing interest in past hobbies
  6. Extreme mood swings

We should also note that some are more inept to suicidal thoughts if they:

  1. Have a history of substance abuse in their family
  2. Have experienced traumatic events
  3. Are dealing with loss (whether it be personal or financial)
  4. Loss of relationships

While noticing the signs can be helpful to slow the progression of this crisis, dismantling the stigma around mental illness as a whole is also one big hurdle that must be overcome to bring about true change. There is still a long way to go, but talking about mental health issues more frequently, learning to have empathy/compassion for one another, and personally educating ourselves on the issue can have an insurmountable impact on the suicide epidemic. 

Mental health is JUST as important as physical health, and if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or tendencies do not hesitate to reach out to the school’s adjustment counselors, Mr.Kearney and Miss Lee, a trusted adult, or dial the suicide hotline for more resources (800-273-8255).