Just over a year ago, I decided to be brave, suck up any bit of courage I had, and share my store of my struggles with all you lovely Internet folk. At the time, that was arguably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – but looking back, I’m glad that I did it. It’s been just over a year since I posted that piece about my struggles with depression, anxiety and counseling… and I thought it was time to check in, and see how this chapter of my life is going.
Yesterday, September 10th, marked World Suicide Prevention Day, and all this week is considered National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States. While it’s astounding to me that we need to designate specific dates or weeks for these initiatives – shouldn’t every day be World Suicide Prevention Day? – I can understand specifying a date/week to focus on awareness of this issue.
According to the American Association of Suicidology, approximately one million people die each year worldwide from suicide. That’s one suicide every 40 seconds. The association also says that for every completed suicide, there are estimated 10-20 attempts.
This is an issue that affects everyone, worldwide.
That’s the thing about mental illness- it doesn’t discriminate. Whether you’re poor, middle-class, or the richest man on Earth; whether you’re homeless or have a fancy home with seven bedrooms; whether you have a job or not, have kids or not, have a significant other or not. Regardless of class, gender, race, sexual orientation, upbringing or any other factor you can think of – mental illness does not discriminate, and it can affect anyone.
By this point, you’re probably thinking: Well, how can I help? An issue this national, this global, may seem like a huge task, but everyone can help end the stigma that surrounds mental illness and allow people to feel comfortable talking about their thoughts. Mental health is an important aspect of our daily lives, just as important as our physical health, and it should be treated as such, both in the good times and the bad times.
Did you know that more people in the United States die each year from suicide than from homicide?
So… what can you do?
Help yourself, then help others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling, whether that’s help from a friend or family member or a professional. It’s easy to hide within yourself and not reach out, but I promise you, things can get better. Don’t ever give up hope. As someone who has dealt with mental health issues in the past, I know it isn’t easy. I know it’s scary and may seem ridiculously intimidating to approach someone about your problems. I know you may not feel “worth it” or “important.” You are. I love you, lots of other people love you, and life can be an amazing thing, but you have to stick around to see it.
Be willing to listen to others, and don’t be afraid to approach someone if you feel like they may be in danger. Don’t isolate yourself and don’t isolate others who may be feeling that way. Mental illness has a stigma attached to it, but we can end that.
For more information, check out the links for further reading below.
With the new year beginning just a few days ago, I’m trying to keep up with reading Demi Lovato’s book, “Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year.” It’s only a few days in, but I’m going to try. Today’s page related to reaching out to others, to help others, as Demi did in publicly discussing her struggles with issues such as self-harm, in the hope that by discussing these struggles, others who are dealing with them may be more likely to seek help or be willing to talk about their own issues. It is in this vein of thought that I decided today to sit down and write about my own experience with mental health, depression, stress, social anxiety and other issues, in the hope that maybe even just one person will read my story and be a little less afraid to seek the help they may need. I know that other people have it worse than I do; I know I have a lot to be thankful for, and my struggles have definitely taught me a lot. I never struggled with self-harm, but depression was something that plagued me for a long time. But depression doesn’t mean you always have a dark cloud over your head; sometimes it gets a little lighter and you think things are going better, until they aren’t anymore – at least, that’s what it was for me.
Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a stigma associated with mental illness. And quite frankly, having a mental illness can be embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to be unable to complete a seemingly simple task and to have to tell someone “I’m sorry, my mind was in a very bad place today and I just couldn’t handle it without breaking down.” It’s embarrassing to leave a job because of your mental or emotional state, perhaps unrelated to the job completely. So we come up with excuses, other things to tell people, lies to cover our issues and ways to get around the things that we may be struggling with. There’s also the issues that these words are thrown around so carelessly nowadays; people have one bad day and immediately say things like “Ugh, I’m depressed.” But depression is a serious issue, recurring over time and it’s not something to be taken lightly.
But none of this helps; it doesn’t address the issues, it doesn’t bring them out into the open and it further envelopes things in this stigma where many people associate mental illness with being weak, sickly, childish, etc. or allowing people to think of mental illness as something that can just be swept under the rug to be dealt with when it’s convenient. Mental illness is never convenient, but it’s something we as individuals, as communities, as a society, must deal with. Now.
This is my story, and I hope you’ll join me along the way. Though my struggles are not over – and perhaps depression and anxiety are things that I may deal with in some way every day for the rest of my life – I feel more positive, more able to cope and ready to share my story in the hope that it may help even one person somewhere in the world.