Over the last few months, news of suicide has been aired all over the media.
Prominent people who seemed to have very content and happy lives chose to take their own life.
Suicide continues to be discussed because it so hard to understand: for those who have never had suicidal thoughts/feelings.
Mental illness can be equated to getting a bad injury.
Lets say a broken arm for example.
You’ve never broken your arm. You’ve never not been able to use your arm. So when you see someone with a broken arm you can only imagine what they are going through. You can imagine how difficult it is to get up in the morning. You can imagine how hard it is to get dressed. You can think about how painful it is to break a bone. But all in all. You can never feel what they are feeling unless you experience it first hand.
You may have broken a finger and try to empathize, but most of the time it does not do justice to the other’s problem.
Whether it be depression, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, bulimia, anorexia etc. one can never know the full extent of the mental anguish. You may try to remember a time you were very sad, and believe this is exactly what depression is like. You may have moments of tidiness and assume this is how someone struggling with OCD feels. With mental illness, this is very difficult to do and more often than not perpetuates false stereotypes (such as OCD only being about cleanliness).
People say mental illness is invisible. It is so difficult to treat because unlike a broken arm, the public cannot see it.
I contest this statement.
It is visible. Very. If we are paying attention.
For example. If my brother had a rough day at school. He may get into the car and be less talkative. He may turn up the radio a little bit. He might avoid a lot of eye contact. He may not eat as much dinner.
I notice this because I know my brother. I know how he acts during a normal day. I notice this because I am not focused solely on myself. If my brother walked into the car and I was blaring the radio and not connecting with him, I may never know how he feels. The more I think about myself, the less I would think about my brother.
Therefore, I would take action. I would ask him what happened. I could ask him why he does not seem like himself. Did he fail a test? Did a friend say something mean to him? Was he just tired? I could explain what I noticed and look for a solution.
I understand that with mental illness sometimes it may be a snap of the finger moment. An individual with depression or bipolar disorder may become depressed very rapidly which would prevent a friendly ear from seeing the signs.
However, I believe this is the minority.
Mental illness shows its face. It is subtle, but visible. We must be on the watch.
I write today to urge you to take action before the suicide note is written. Ask a friend why they seem so down lately. Get lunch with a friend that seemed really anxious all week.
Listen. Listen. Listen.
We as a species are very astute when it comes to noticing an abnormality. As a kid I am sure you played those games where you had to spot the difference between two pictures. One picture had a flower pot with two flowers the other a flower pot with three. We have been trained to notice differences. If you could identity it in a game as a child you can identify it now in the people in your life.
Love. Love. Love.
Deny yourself and take time out of your day to love others. Did your friend seem a little sad? Go hang out with them and get ice cream. The minute your mind starts saying things like, “They are okay, I have a lot to do etc..” stop it. Even if nothing is wrong do you think your kind act won’t be noticed? How do you know it will not have a long term impact? You don’t.
Read up on mental illness to dissolve your stereotypes. Do you know the signs and symptoms of depression? Do you know the different types of depression? Do you know the differences between all the eating disorders? Do you know that OCD may have absolutely nothing to do with germs and neatness? The more you educate yourself the more capable you will be to notice problems, take action, and recommend counseling.
Before the suicide note is written, we all have a responsibility to…
Educate Ourselves and Others.
Through our actions, I pray at least one less suicide note will be written.