Trigger Warning: Discussion of suicide
If you’ve been reading my articles since the dawn of time, you’ll know that I’ve touched on stigma and its effects on those of us living with mental health conditions, such as myself, quite a few times. In fact, my first article in The Mass Media was because of stigmatizing comments I had encountered in my day to day trekking home and to UMass Boston. (Back when we didn’t have dorms!)
Stigma is something that many brave souls have combatted in the past, in the present, and unfortunately, will likely continue to combat in the future. Stigma eliminates person first language (as you read about in the Diagnosis segment of the series) by identifying those struggling with mental health conditions *as* their illness and not who they are as a whole. Stigma is often said by those who are uneducated about the field of mental health and who are either ignorant to the weight of their comments or do not care to understand at all (to put it bluntly in black and white terms). Stigma harms those who are struggling both silently and with their voices loudly echoing the room. Stigma has the power to drain every ounce of energy from you and collide into you with the hopelessness of why we, as a community, should fight back against it at all.
Stigma, most importantly, while largely being external can also become internalized, posing even higher stakes and problems for the individual’s minds.
When I was first diagnosed in 2014 with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on self-harm and suicide obsessions (not genuine thoughts of suicide), I faced my mind’s enemy with phrases that I was “just attention-seeking” and “I didn’t really have OCD”, or that I “should check whether or not I have hidden intentions to harm myself”–which would perpetuate a cycle of anxiety and doubt that I would engage in mental rituals to arrive on the conclusion that I was in fact safe which only then prompted additional intrusive thoughts that began the cycle all over again.
I know I also struggled with coming to terms with the idea that I didn’t know I was living with a diagnosable mental health condition. I felt that if I couldn’t tell something was “wrong” with me than what else was I missing?
Over the years, I’ve faced stigma in a few different places–on the train, in passing conversation, in people mentioning “craziness” off-handedly, in text-based mediums and within my own mind. I still have some internalized stigma mostly regarding those individuals living with psychosis and personality disorders as those are areas of psychoeducation that I, myself, am not well educated in.
Along those lines, personality disorders like borderline (BPD), psychosis, eating disorders, substance use disorders, self-harm and suicidal ideation tend to be *heavily* stigmatized in multiple cultures and countries around the world.
In fact, there’s a public health crisis ongoing at the moment regarding the alarming rates of suicide worldwide along with the presence of an opioid epidemic in America.
Again, I don’t have lived experience with the latter so I can’t talk too much about that but for the former, suicide is still a hushed topic with a lot of stigma stemming from the idea that its act is one of “selfish-ness” or seen as a sin in a religious perspective. Then there’s also the idea that self-harm is equivalent to suicidal ideation–when it’s not–and that suicide attempts are marked as “cries for help”, “attention-seeking”, and “if they were really serious they would have completed suicide.”
Stigma has the knack for perpetuating lies and misconceptions about mental health conditions as though those of us living with them are meant to be feared and shunned, or worse, sterilized and institutionalized. There have been many cruel acts done to us in the past, and we’re repeatedly demonized by the media still today.
Choosing to not talk about suicide envelopes and pushes those of us who struggle with its ideation further into the darkness. Normalization and approaching individuals with compassion and light is what’s required to bring down the statistics that say every forty seconds another person loses their life to suicide (WHO, 2018).
It’s not easy to talk about, it’s not fair, and it’s still important.
There will always be the people who don’t believe mental health conditions are a reality for one out of five American adults (NAMI, 2015). There will always be those who claim it’s for one reason or another, but there will also be people who are willing to understand and want to for the sake of their loved ones.
Our mission is to find those individuals and educate them, leaving behind the rest; because saving even just one life can make a world of difference.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts: you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800 273 8255; contact the Counseling Center any time; text HOME to 741-741; or find additional resources via Google.
Hey everyone!! I haven’t completely decided if I’m uploading this article this Saturday or tomorrow (Sunday) as a scheduled post. But I thought I could keep you guys up in the loop by sending it out soon.
Wellness deadlines for the paper this semester are Thursday’s at 5p, which means I send in my articles for the week by Wednesday evening, the day before. I’ve already written about 7 articles and from what I was overhearing the other day, the paper may change from bi-weekly to weekly, which would be awesome.
For now, I have about 3 ongoing series going on, and this article itself took a turn down suicide prevention lane that I had not anticipated at the get-go. But, that’s okay.
Hope you guys enjoy this post! I have a really cool one coming up after this from my week two’s submission. 🙂
I’ll try not to be a stranger! Hope you’re all well. ❤ ❤ ❤
PS I forgot to say: This piece was written September 9.2018 🙂