Our campaign psychiatrist discussed the topic of suicide in last week’s live #AskAPsychiatirst Periscope session. I love her approach to healing the mind. She does a great job at explaining what’s going on in the brain, how to work toward getting back to feeling like your best self and how we all (society) play a critical role in helping to get rid of the stigma. I’m going to give you some highlights from that discussion.
Just Praying Won’t Help: I’m a spiritual person. I go to church. I read my bible. I even do daily devotionals, however; even the bible says that faith without works is dead. Sometimes, you just can’t pray your issues away. Dr. Harrison brought up a very valid point. No one tells someone who’s been diagnosed with cancer to just pray about it and it will go away. It wouldn’t even be a thought. They would say go to chemo or radiation and rely on medicinal help to beat cancer. If someone breaks their leg, we wouldn’t tell them to just pray through the pain and you will be totally healed. Well, when your mind is broken or sick, it is absolutely no different. You can pray while you see a psychologist, psychiatrist or any other mental health provider that will help you repair your mind.
Nonjudgmental Love: Dr. Harrison said we need to get to a point where we completely remove the stigma; so much so, that when we ask a person how he is doing, he will be totally comfortable saying, “I thought about killing myself today.” Our response, without any judgment should be, “what can I do to help?” People don’t feel comfortable completely expressing themselves because they’re afraid of the response and that fear keeps that person stuck on “isolation island.” Removal of the stigma must be universally accepted, so everyone feels ok with saying, “I’m not okay.”
We Are Pack Animals: She also explained that humans, by nature, are pack animals. This means we need that connection from other humans to thrive. We just aren’t meant to navigate this world alone. According to Dr. Harrison, when the brain goes through anxiety or depression, it convinces you that there are no other options. It convinces you that there is no help. It convinces you that you’ve somehow been kicked out the pack and it is all of our jobs to invite them back into the pack. We do that with nonjudgmental love, a listening ear and letting people know that it’s okay to say, “I’m not okay.”
Let’s all join forces to create a world where people can talk about their mental pain with as much transparency as they do their physical pain. If we don’t make people feel shameful for saying they have cancer, multiple sclerosis or heart disease, we shouldn’t attach shame to someone saying they’ve felt/feel like killing themselves. As a matter of fact, removing that stigma will probably keep them from doing so. So, if you or someone you know has experienced thoughts of suicide, feelings of depression and/or anxiety or just overwhelming stress that you just don’t know how to label, please go to twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and just hashtag your loved one’s or your mental pain and the words #metoo. We are all in this together and as long as we keep that mentality at the forefront of our minds, we can help remove the stigma.