When I was young nobody committed suicide. If somebody actually did, well that was somebody else's problem and we certainly would NOT discuss it. I grew up with the phrase secure in my brain, "If you can't say something nice, say nothing at all." On the surface that seems like a charming, polite concept. It was taken a great deal deeper in the society of the late 50's early 60's. We did NOT discuss mental illness or similar things that we considered "not nice."
Any type of mental difference was not understood. People with these "mental" differences were often warehoused in enormous mental institutions. That included people with sexual preferences that were different than the "norm." So in these institutions were people with Schizophrenia, Clinical Depression, Autism, General Mental Retardation, Homosexuality, and sometimes people who were deaf and blind would land in there as well.
There was very little understanding of how our brains work. Psychologists, and psychiatrists were using the mentally challenged as human guinea pigs...test animals. Patients were often sedated and ignored as much as possible.
Some of the treatments were as follows:
Aversion therapy: This was used especially for those who had homosexual proclivities. One of the many methods that were used involved showing slides of things that would stimulate the libido while giving the patient a severe, painful, electrical shock.
Water Treatment: Patients were put in very hot baths with a canvas top that had a hole for their heads to stick through. They were left in these tubs, sometimes for hours. This was to calm agitated mental patients.
Electric Shock Therapy: Patients would have electrodes attached to their heads. Electrical currents were sent through these electrodes. It is supposed to stimulate the production of chemicals our brain needs to feel content. This can cause all types of horrid side effects. It is still used today.
Lobotomy: This was pretty much the last treatment if nothing else worked. This one is totally egregious. They open your skull and use a tool to pretty much stir up your brain. It often completely destroys the personality of the person in the process. The patients are MUCH less agitated because they are pretty much vegetables afterwards.
There was a very real stigma attached not only to having mental health issues, but the therapists who worked with them also were stigmatized in American Society.
I remember in my childhood hearing a whispered conversation about somebody that died at their own hand. I don't think I had any idea at the time what that even meant. Nobody spoke about panic attacks, or serious anxiety disorder. My Mother told me that she had always been "High Strung." That was the way to describe someone with a textbook case of ADHD. The good news is that she had learned to use her fractured attention span to accomplish many, many tasks at virtually the same time.
I just wrote a song that I feel very connected to. I named it, "Shout it out." The following are the lyrics,
When the world is dark and dreary and your skin don't fit just right
Shout it out from the rooftops, help will come to make life bright
Shout it out
Chorus: Shout it out from the rooftops
Help will come to make life bright
Shout it out, depression is a liar
Says your death will make things right
Shout it out!
Verse 1: Now just think of those who love you, see their faces when you're gone
The tears their hearts are crying
Show that they don't understand, how you could just leave them
A whole lifetime without you
Shout it out
Verse 2: Your loved ones would do anything, ANYTHING at all
To keep you with them
Watching your children grow up tall
Your parents will never recover, they will miss you all their lives
How will you feel when from Heaven you can't help them as they strive
Shout it out
Repeat the Chorus twice at the end of the song
We can't just be silent anymore. We need to shout it out! We need to find ways and means to help those who face hideous decisions for their loved ones. There ARE ways now that are effective to treat clinical depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia, and a plethora of other mental conditions. We DO understand now that there are chemicals that we need to make our brains work properly. The tools are out there!
Possibly one of the hardest parts of this discussion is the finances. When my husband battled his brutal battle with clinical depression our insurance only paid the tiniest fraction of the cost for him to get any medical assistance. We carried the incredibly heavy burden of the rest of the expenses. There was a wonderful clinic that we wished to be able to participate in. Insurance would pay none of the expenses so we simply could not access the necessary help.
Come on world, WAKE UP! We lose valuable, wonderful people every day to suicide. This ISN'T just a problem for the family, for those that were closest to them. This is a societal problem. Just like ripples in a pond when a rock is dropped in, the ripples spread outwards from such a tragedy. First and foremost the spouse, children, and parents, siblings, and then further out. Next line of ripples is the medical/mental health all the survivors need. Then those they work with, their ability to take care of themselves financially, etc. Ripples just keep spreading, and getting wider as they grow outwards.
Let's TALK about this subject. Imagine the horror that an innocent child feels, or an adolescent when one of their friends commits suicide? It's happening more and more. We need to talk about it, give our children tools to cope with such horror, and we need to have tools to cope ourselves.
SHOUT IT OUT! Don't sit in quiet corners and speak in whispers. I'm not going to be quiet about it anymore. It's NOT OK for us to lose anyone to suicide. We need to find answers. In the meantime let's do all we can to love others, and keep our eyes open for those that are struggling!