As mental health disorders continue to be diagnosed at an alarming rate, it has become evident that those who suffer are often compelled to initiate self harm to relive them of the symptoms. As it stands, mental illness is the only known disorder that carries a stigma of shame, guilt, and societal judgment so great that often the only recourse for relief is suicide. Until we as a society can show the same compassion and empathy towards mental illness and addiction that we do towards other diseases, we will continue to lose our children, parents, friends, and idols to something that is more times than not, preventable.
The following remarks were penned by a powerful advocate and someone who truly cares, Ms. Katy Peiters-Haslar.
"There are a lot of great posts, articles, and other sentiments out there right now in the wake of the suicide-deaths of two very prominent public figures. The outpouring of support is great, but I wonder if those who have never experienced a clinical depression, the jail of addiction, or extreme anxiety understand WHY this tragedy happens, especially to people who seemingly "had it all."
As I was watching CNN's special last night on the life and career of Anthony Bourdain, it occurred to me, as I listened to the myriad of friends and co-workers who spoke about Anthony, that the common threads in their sentiments regarding his suicide - we are baffled, we are shocked, we didn't see it, we didn't know he was hurting, it came out of nowhere - speak to the pervasive and hopeless truth of people's mental states: we never truly know what someone else is going through. And that's our fault as a society for perpetuating the stigma that mental illness is taboo, uncomfortable, or self-inflicted.
To those of us who have faced some of the same demons Bourdain had - clinical depression, extreme anxiety, feeling like your thoughts are tormenting you, and addiction - we know all too well that one minute we can be feeling just fine, and the next minute, our brain is hijacked by one of the many mind ruminations that get caught in horrible loops in our thoughts and derail our sanity and ability to think rationally. We lash out, or we crawl in our hole, or we do something to kill the pain. Sometimes, that thing ends our life. I would never say I wasn't devastated by the news of Bourdain's suicide, but I also will never say that I'm shocked or surprised - by ANYONE's suicide, quite frankly, sad as that is.
Our feelings that it will never get better, everyone would be better off, and we can't stand another minute in this human body, in this pain, are very real to us and virtually undetectable if we're among those who try to keep a "stiff upper lip." Maybe we aren't good at asking for help. Maybe we've been shamed before for our thoughts and feelings. Maybe we've done a lot of stupid shit while we were in pain and have isolated ourselves by our actions. Maybe that stupid shit has driven people away, making our case even stronger for our worthlessness. Or maybe we just don't possess the knowledge of how to reach beyond the mental anguish to someone who can help. And we're convinced we don't even want to.
And maybe those who've tried to help us before got tired of getting nowhere, so they stop. And who can blame them? But we blame ourselves for yet another failed relationship, yet another person we've let down and sent away. One of Anthony's friends quoted him as saying something like - he has many friends, but really no friends. While those speaking on the subject couldn't seem to comprehend this thought, I know I can, and I know many of you can. We push people away, or our brain tells us we're unlovable as we are, so we put walls between who we really are and our friends so they don't see the real us. God forbid they see the crazy.
Crazy. It's a word we throw around a lot in our culture to describe people. There are "people who do violent unspeakable things' crazy, (and I'm not talking about them), and then there are people who are clearly flailing in their brains and are desperately clinging to people while also vehemently pushing them away, saying and doing strange things crazy. And frankly it's sad to call those people crazy without realizing that label could be the thing that pushes them to an act of desperation.
I've heard acquaintances who are trained therapists, who should know better, call a person in their social circle "crazy" because of addictive, depressive, or anxious behavior. A "crazy ex girlfriend" or "crazy ex husband" - - how many times have we heard that? Granted a lot of mental health professionals would never say something like this...but some of them would. If the very people we rely on to understand this plight and help us into the light could use such language to describe someone's obvious struggle with 'being ok' - what hope do ANY of us have for the greater population of untrained folks to understand?
This stuff is complicated, not easy to understand if you've never been there, but not at ALL surprising, if you understand that head space at all, when someone finally succumbs to those unrelenting, punishing thoughts.
My heart goes out to Kate Spade's people, Anthony Bourdain's people, and to all of you who are in that head space right now but don't know what to do, and to your friends and family who truly care about you and worry about you. Shit, I don't know what to do to make it right for you either - but keep trying. Please keep trying. As trite as it sounds, we are all in this together. Much, much love to you all.- Katy"
For more information on mental health or addiction please visit www.parkdalecenter.com or call 1-888-883-8433
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal ideations, please call the National Suicide Hotline today at 1-800-273-8255