Sadly, three suicides have been in the news in the last week, two survivors from the Parkland School shooting and the father of a child slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It’s been almost a year since the tragic deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. When cases like these get in the news, it gets people talking about mental health and that’s good. But then a week or two goes by and the conversations fade. We need to be talking about mental health not only when it makes the news, but also as part of our daily conversations.
Suicide is killing around 47,000 Americans every year, a rate that has soared in the past two decades. That number doesn’t include about 1.3 million unsuccessful suicide attempts, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
Something is very, very wrong.
We need to find a way to help people who are dealing with mental distress. We need to make conversation about our mental health as common and comfortable as conversation about our physical health. We need to beat back the stigma surrounding mental health and make people understand that we’re all human, we all need help at one time or another. Instead of pretending that life is great when you are suffering, we need to feel comfortable talking about it.
I’ve read the primary goal of suicide is not to end life, but to end pain.
Most people who commit suicide have been suffering from mental illness. They did nothing to deserve this disease and most fight like hell to battle it – many for years – before giving in to the pain.
How can it be that bad? Bruce Springsteen did a beautiful job in describing his personal experience with mental illness. Here’s an excerpt from his autobiography, “Born to Run” (which BTW was a great read).
I had “symptoms I’d never encountered before in my life. I had an attack of what was called an “agitated depression.”
During this period, I was so profoundly uncomfortable in my own skin that I just wanted OUT. It feels dangerous and brings plenty of unwanted thoughts.
I was uncomfortable doing anything. Standing . . . walking . . . sitting down . . . everything brought waves of an agitated anxiety that I’d spend every waking minute trying to dispel. Demise and foreboding were all that awaited and sleep was the only respite. During waking hours, I’d spend the day trying to find a position I would feel all right in for the next few minutes. I was not hyper. In fact, I was too depressed to concentrate on anything of substance. I’d pace the room looking for the twelve square inches of carpet where I might find release. If I could get myself to work out, that might produce a short relief, but really all I wanted was the bed, the bed, the bed and unconsciousness. I spent good portions of the day with the covers up to my nose waiting for it to stop. Reading, or even watching television, felt beyond my ability. All my favorite things—listening to music, watching some film noir—caused such an unbearable anxiety in me because they were undoable.
Once I was cut off from all my favorite things, the things that tell me who I am, I felt myself dangerously slipping away. I became a stranger in a borrowed and disagreeable body and mind.”
WOW. I was blown away by his honesty and openness in talking about his experience. It takes a lot of courage and we need more of this. We need people sharing their experiences and they need to find people open and willing to listen with true empathy.
When 1 out of 5 people suffer from mental illness, it means pretty much all of us know family or friends who are suffering. If you aren’t suffering from it right now, you could be in a few years. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime. WHAT????
It’s random. It attacks innocent people.
People think it would never happen to me. But it can. It’s attacking our fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, cousins and grandchildren who are in pain every day. I know, it attacked my son.
Let’s end the stigma surrounding mental illness so that:
- a person dealing with mental illness will be embraced by their community and get the compassion and support they and their family deserve.
- a person dealing with mental illness will feel like they can be honest and open about what they’re going through and feel supported by their friends and family.
- a person dealing with mental illness will get the recognition they deserve for being the strong and courageous fighter they are.
- all people will recognize that mental illness randomly attacks innocent people.
Silence keeps us isolated from the facts . . . end the silence. By speaking out we can create lasting change.
Do you know other famous people (musicians, actors, athletes, etc) who have bravely spoken out about their mental health issues? Write and let me know in the comments below.
People care about you, you are not alone. please call if you need to talk to someone:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
As always, I’d appreciate it if you would help me get the word out about the Matt Kurtz Kindness Award of $250 (nominate someone who inspires you) and the Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant of $250 (submit an act of kindness you would do with $250).