If this week of high profile suicides does not shed light on the necessity to end the stigma of mental illness, I do not know what will.
We are “shocked” and “saddened” by the “sudden and unexpected death” of famous individuals, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, but in our daily lives, we either do not speak of these issues, or send out regular, often unconscious, microaggressions about mental illness. Rolling our eyes when someone is too depressed to join us for drinks at a bar; refusing sick days for anxiety related issues; referring to mental illness as weakness or a personal failing… all of which promote the stigma that keep those of us with mental illness firmly shut within our own dark, terrifying thoughts. Even suicide is called selfish and shameful. Therefore, when a mentally ill person is shut off from society, due to social cues, told that their pain is “in their heads”, asked what they could POSSIBLY have to worry/be sad about, trapped in the prison of their brains, and then told that they are selfish for contemplating suicide, it is no wonder that suicides occur. This person feels that there is literally no other option and that they are unnecessary and unneeded, and that as selfish or as shameful as suicide may be, the world is better off without them. This is never the case, but they do not know this if we do not TELL them!!!
We need to open the dialogue about mental illness more often than when the worst happens. We need to let people know that they are valued and that we are listening. We need to make suicide prevention part of our ongoing social discourse. We need to stop being shocked and saddened and we need to start being proactive and humane.