My heart is heavy because two well-known celebrities had completed suicides this week. I’m not caught up in idealizing the lives of the rich and famous but it brings to light how outside appearances can provide a disguise for what’s happening internally. Ordinary people struggle too and as a therapist, I have to use my voice and platform to educate and advocate. Below is inspired by my sadness and determination.
CDC reports that suicides are up by more than 25%. That’s an abysmal stat. Why? We remain a society that stigmatizes mental illness. In fact, many don’t believe mental illness is real. I can’t tell you how many times I give a diagnosis that is often met with denial. We still laugh at people with mental illness. #kanye Then we need to address the lack of priority placed on getting services. My practice provides school-based mental health. It costs schools nothing and yet, many schools don’t avail themselves of the services. Why? #testscores Addressing mental health issues as a means of early intervention decreases the severity later in life. Medical doctors avoid addressing mental health concerns. 20% of all primary care visits are mental and not physical! “Doc, I have frequent headaches”. “Take this pill”. Hmm, how easy is it to ask, are you stressed, anxious, depressed? Take this assessment and let’s see what else might be troubling you. #pushpillsThere’s a nationwide shortage of psychiatrist. Guess what? No one really cares because there’s no serious effort at addressing this very dire shortage because we don’t value this specialty. It’s nearly impossible to find a child psychiatrist because this is a population whose capital is even less valuable. We are just understanding the impact of trauma and how it affects the developing brain. Exposure to chronic stress changes the architect of the brain. This can happen prenatally. It causes behavioral and emotional problems. It can look like ADHD or ODD or conduct disorders. These kids are dysregulated and the expectations placed on them are unrealistic. They often have attachment issues. You know what our response is to populations of children who have trauma? Punishment, rejection, imprisonment, special education, devaluing… They grow up and then we call them antisocial. #wrong. Wealth and power aren’t protective factors, but they provide you with access but not necessarily a clearer understanding of the suffering. Being poor is a huge risk factor. So if you’re sad about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and I am, please consider how you can contribute to the change against stigma. Be proactive in speaking with your primary care doc about your depression, anxiety, etc. Get your kid in treatment with someone who specializes in understanding child mental health. Become an advocate in your state. Demand that your insurance company ceases limits on your mental health coverage. Examine your own biases about people with mental illness. Find a good therapist for yourself. #gettreated.