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This Isn’t Just About The Stigma of Mental Illness

This week my heart was heavy after the suicides of 2 famous people and the release of the CDC report saying suicide rates are at an all-time high. I did what I always do when my heart is heavy, I wrote.
It is time for a revolution.

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Essay:

This week we lost 2 successful, famous, life touching individuals Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. But according to the American Federation for Suicide Prevention every day we lose 123 people to suicide.

The deaths of Kate and Anthony have left people stunned and saddened. This news combined with the CDC report released this week which said that suicides are up 30%

It is easy to feel saddened. To feel stunned. And to explain it away as a mental illness or as drugs and addiction. Anything to make us feel better that suicide won’t touch us. But at this rate. It will.

This isn’t just about the stigma mental illness. Over 50% of suicides are by someone who didn’t have a previously known mental health issue.

This is the about the stigma of any mental or emotional pain.

The stigma of being sad, depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. The stigma of experiencing anything less than happiness and joy all the time.

We are so caught up in appearing happy, successful, and accomplished. All that keeping up with appearances keeps us busy. SO busy. Too busy for the real check-ins necessary to connect on a deeper level and see each other’s pain.

Twice this week I chatted with friends who when describing their pain…real serious pain quickly ended their story with “it’s no big deal, I should be grateful for all I have.”

We are so quick to move past the pain. Hurry right on past it.

I mean life is good…I should be happy right?

This isn’t just about mental illness. This is the about the stigma of any mental or emotional pain.

We move through life at lightning speed. Too busy for anything beyond data sharing. Too caught up in the next thing on our to-do list to really settle down and check in with ourselves let alone someone else in our lives. And the anxiety, sadness, depression, the pain just keeps piling on.

This isn’t just about mental illness. This is the about the stigma of any mental or emotional pain.

You have chest pain? You go to the doctor. No one judges you for being weak or pathetic or unsuccessful.

You have emotional pain? You push it down. You suck it up. You soldier on. Because emotional pain means you are weak. You are pathetic. You are less than.

Sounds harsh, doesn’t it. And yet, that is how we as Americans think. That is why we quickly follow any sharing of pain with “it’s no big deal, I should be grateful for all I have.”

This isn’t just about mental illness. This is the about stigma of any mental or emotional pain.

This requires a revolution. This requires demanding more of ourselves.

Here’s where to start:

Listen. Just listen. No advice. No problem-solving. No thinking positive, or be grateful, no brainstorming. Just listen.

When someone says, “this is no big deal.” Remind them it is their life. It is their pain. Therefore it is a big deal. Be curious. Ask them to share more. Show up for their pain even though it makes you uncomfortable or you feel like you are being too invasive. If we are going to do this differently we are going to have to get uncomfortable.

This isn’t just about mental illness. This is the about the stigma of any mental or emotional pain.

Re-prioritize. Pause your to-do list and check in with yourself. Is all this stuff worth it? Are all the to-dos and the mad scrambles worth it? At the end of your life are these activities something you are going to look at with joy and fondness?

Earlier this month I did a re-calibration of my priorities. Realizing that I was pushing too much. Scrambling too hard. For what? At what cost? We are prioritizing our to-do list over our friends and family. We are choosing checking items off the list over connecting with others. We are engaging in simply sharing data over sharing our pain, our dreams, our struggles.

This is a 2 fold revolution.

  • First, we need to show up for ourselves. Step off the hamster wheel and check in with our lives, our values, and our priorities.
  • Second, we need to show up for others. Take the time and the patience to ask people how they are and listen for the answer. And then ask a follow-up question. And another. And another.

It’s time for a revolution

This isn’t just about mental illness. This is the about the stigma of any mental or emotional pain.

Let’s do this.

If you are feeling suicidal or know someone who is call: 1-800-273-TALK

If you want help with setting your priorities, managing your anxiety or just want someone to listen email me at nancyjane@live-happier.com and we can schedule a 30 minute free phone call.

Suicide Statistics

 

 

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