For those of us struggling with a mental health disorder, or who have a family member with a mental health disorder, or those who have a loved one who has passed away due to suicide, not enough can be said or done to make things right. The numbers keep rising, yet the research is still painfully slow in finding the causes and treatments for mental health diseases and suicide.
If you don’t suffer from a mental health disorder, count yourself fortunate. If you do, you are definitely not alone. Unfortunately, our culture has made us feel alone, unusual, and sometimes the target of jokes and bullying. All the while, a great deal of the underlying causes are biological in origin.
Who would make fun of a person dying from heart disease? Who would laugh at a child suffering from cancer? No one. Yet, mental illnesses have never been treated with the same dignity as other diseases. How shameful our culture is. How horrific these countless tragedies are to our innocent children, teens, adults, and the aging population.
Stigma and shame have led many to hide and not receive any kind of help. Would you want to be embarrassed by your peers, cut from a list of job candidates, or denied decent insurance coverage, all because of a mental health condition?
So hiding becomes a way of life for so many. Is there any wonder why so many people are suffering? Is there any wonder why so many people are dying by suicide?
As for those who do seek medical help, some have successful outcomes. Yet for many, the treatments are, quite frankly, sub-par. And these individuals are left floundering, jumping from one pill to the next, sometimes taking dangerous cocktails of meds.
I say these things not to knock the psychiatric community. They are merely doing their jobs. According to the limited research at hand, they are doing the best they can. And that’s the point. The research isn’t there, or not nearly enough of it. This, again, is because mental health conditions have been seen as not as important as ‘real’ medical conditions Well, they are important, and they “are real”. They are biological in nature for many, and they have the added layer of being environmental. Add stigma to the mix, and we have a recipe for disaster.
With all of this said, I do see the tides shifting a bit. Or maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part. I hope not. Organizations such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and others are seeing the need to support research into the biological causes of mental health conditions. Support groups, such as the Alliance of Hope (AOH) are making a huge impact on those who have lost loved ones to suicide. They are also working hard to remove stigma from mental health disorders and suicide.
We need to all keep working together. We need to speak out until we are heard so that lives may be enjoyed and so that lives may be saved.