Stigma and Celebrity Suicides

CD18D401-12D7-4E61-86E6-16666E08BBECWe’ve lost some notable names to suicide over the last few years.

Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, Dolores O’Riordan, Verne Troyer, Avicii. Just this week both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are reported to have died by suicide. Cue the outpouring of people declaring that we must start talking to one another, supporting each other, sharing our struggles.

This is all well and good, and clearly I am a huge advocate for talking about mental health. But the biggest question posed now, is how? How do we continue to share and be open in a society that still so openly stigmatises against mental illness? How do we talk about suicide in a culture that still demonises it and declares it an act of selfishness? That dismisses depression? That sometimes doesn’t even believe in mental illness at all?

And how, how can we expect society as a whole to understand the severity of mental illness when ultimately, our mental health services are stretched, underfunded and crumbling? They are closing left right and centre.  Waiting lists are enormous. Mental health is the poor sibling to physical health, and until this changes and it is considered as an equally important aspect of health and wellbeing, I don’t see how our societal perception is going to drastically change.

I love that so many people use these incredibly sad events to encourage people to share. I love that I am seeing more and more people advocating for talking and less and less people calling suicide a selfish and irresponsible act. But whilst people are still dismissing the severity of mental illness and the desperation of suicide, it is clear that we still have work to do.

In a few days time this will all die down. People will go back to their lives and the campaigning for openness and sharing will quieten. There’s only so much change in attitudes we can expect without the support of our government, not just with words but with actions too. More money, waiting time limits, equal research. However, we can keep trying to do what we can.

The news coverage will soon stop, but we cant let that be the end of these conversations. We can’t do much to change mental health funding, but we can try and influence change as much as possible from the bottom.

We have to keep the conversation going. We have to keep talking.

 

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7 comments

  1. I agree. I posed this question at the end of May. Why do we stop talking about it? It is hard to continue when people stop listening. I talk openly about it but it often feels like only those who struggle listen. Its sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we need to move the campaign’s away from or expand from ‘it’s okay to talk’ towards educating on how to listen and encourage people to reach out to those they think might be struggling. When you are in the midst of deep depression it’s hard enough to do much let alone reach out. Am seeing loads of Facebook posts where people are saying ‘Contact me if you feel like this or that….here are the phone numbers. Share this on.’ That isn’t helping anyone other them to feel like they did something. You are right we need to keep the conversations going, I think the emphasis can shift a little now towards the listening side and seeing more action in the support, as you so rightly highlight is a major shortfall.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I totally agree with the comments above. Helping people to feel able to talk is huge, but it has to be matched by a growing willingness of society to listen and support, at both a personal level, and at a policy level by investing properly in mental health care. The enduring nature of myths around mental health, as you have outlined, is an ongoing source of frustration to me that I recently addressed in a ranty post of my own!

    Liked by 1 person

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