Is there a time when you should give in and let someone commit suicide? When you’re suffering, should you ever just commit suicide?
AUGUST 12, 2014
Since the news of the suicide of someone who, as a comedian, you’d think would lead a happy-go-lucky life, I’ve heard a lot of people say a lot of things. One thing that keeps getting repeated is how selfish Robin Williams must have been. I’ve heard this word “selfish” get tossed around time and time again when someone takes their life. And, quite frankly, I’ve had enough of it. It’s time we stop calling a mental disconnect a personality flaw. Being selfish, in our society, is generally seen as a bad thing. So when you call suicide selfish, you’re calling it a bad thing. And it is, but not for the reasons you are implying.
Suicide is bad, it’s awful. It is the ending of a life. A living, breathing, thinking, feeling person. It steals loved ones from us. Let it be stated that I am not, in any way, trying to lessen the pain of those who have lost someone to suicide. Death, losing someone, is horrendous and emotional and sad, no matter what the cause. But we have got to stop calling someone who commits suicide selfish. Someone who ends their life is going through a mental struggle we should feel blessed and lucky to not understand.
To not be in a suicidal mindset, to be healthy mentally, is something most of us take for granted. Suicide isn’t something that simply happens. Suicide is a result of someone being so lost that they think ending their life is the only option. It’s not something someone decides to do one day. It’s something that happens when someone loses a long, seemingly endless, internal battle.
“Suicide is not a selfish act. It’s not for attention. It’s for relief. As sad as that sounds, it is. Someone who commits suicide, who goes> all in> for an act that takes it all away, is looking for a way to feel better.”
Suicide doesn’t happen to selfish people, it happens to depressed ones. We can’t keep calling something that people have no control over selfish. It’s selfish of us to tell them “feel better” or “just be happy.” Because when you say those things, you’re not thinking of the person you’re saying them too; you’re thinking of yourself. You want them to get better but you aren’t thinking about how difficult that may be for them. Depression is not something you can just get over and depressed is not something you can just stop being. Depression is a chemical imbalance and sometimes it knocks you down before you can catch yourself. And sometimes the push it gives you is too forceful to pull yourself back up.
Suicide isn’t selfish. It’s sad, yes, but not selfish. It’s selfish of those left behind to try to make light of the deceased’s situation. Suicide is not a selfish act. It’s not for attention. It’s for relief. As sad as that sounds, it is. Someone who commits suicide, who goes> all in> for an act that takes it all away, is looking for a way to feel better. At the point when someone is suicidal, they aren’t thinking about other people, but they aren’t thinking about themselves either. (Which, by definition, rules out their SELFishness.) They are lost, confused, and consumed by a dark feeling that takes away their ability to truly think about the world around them. They get swept up in a bad place and, sometimes, unfortunately, can’t find their way out.
It’s hard to understand how someone could take their life, I get it. I’ve been there. Losing someone to suicide is not fun and you just want answers. But we have to rejoice in the fact that we can’t answer the “why” question ourselves. Because, if we could, we’d be in that same, terrible place our loved one was. We’d understand what it’s like to think suicide is the only option. We’d also realize that it’s not selfish. But I truly hope that you never understand those emotions and realize the confusion behind them.
We, the people left behind, can feel upset and sad and mad and all other types of emotions. But we’ve got to stop trivializing suicide and simply writing it off as selfish. It’s so much more than that and the feelings run so much deeper than that.
So next time you hear someone call suicide selfish, I urge you to tell them to think twice. Tell them they’re lucky to not be able to understand it. Lucky to be able to think of it as selfish, not as necessary, or the only option. Lucky to not be fighting -and maybe losing- a battle. Lucky to be here and be alive.
New York Amsterdam News
Chirlane McCray | First Lady of New York City | 7/30/2015
A short time ago, I was at an event, talking to some very smart people about what we can do to address our mental health crisis. The conversation proceeded smoothly, right up until the moment an African American woman suggested her own theory as to why so many of our young people struggle with mental health conditions. “Maybe,” she said, “the next generation isn’t tough enough. Maybe they’ve had it too easy.”
I wish I could say that I was shocked—but I wasn’t. For generations we have held on to a tradition of toughing it out. We have been reluctant to admit that, like people in every other community in this world, we know the pain of mental illness.
Our reluctance is understandable. The survival of our people has required us to never give anyone an excuse to call us weak. And so we bury our anguish deep within ourselves; we keep our business behind closed doors. We wait it out.
Despite our best intentions, this pattern of silent suffering has sentenced far too many African Americans to lifetimes of solitary torment. I saw this firsthand with my father. Robert McCray was a veteran of World War II. Along with my mother, he created a beautiful and stable home for my siblings and me. But he was never able to enjoy his hard-earned success as much as he should have.
My father suffered from depression, but he wouldn’t have called it that. In fact, he never said a word about the chronic sadness he experienced. But I know it was there. I know his life would have been better if he had talked about it and was able to get some help.
Sadly, my father’s story may be all too familiar to many of you. Today, African Americans are 20 percent more likely than their white counterparts to report experiencing serious psychological distress.
This is not a surprise, because we are also more likely to be exposed to risk factors like poverty, discrimination and instability. The trauma of racism is real, and it can have a deep and destructive effect on our minds.
But despite the many risk factors we face, African Americans are 40 percent less likely to have received mental health treatment or counseling in the past year. It all adds up to a disturbing reality: Millions of African Americans suffer from a mental health condition in isolation, which means they are suffering far more than necessary. Because the good news is that mental health issues are treatable. The challenge before us now is to come together as a community and achieve two connected goals:
We must build an effective mental health system.
We must start telling each other that to seek help for a mental health condition is not an act of weakness—it is an act of strength.
That’s how we, as a people, should be thinking about mental health. We must put aside our old notions and create a world where getting treatment for anxiety is no more difficult than getting treatment for allergies. Our daughters and our sons—and our fathers and our mothers—are counting on us.
Chirlane McCray is the First Lady of New York City. Her Urban Agenda column is sponsored by the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 170 years. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. The Urban Agenda is available on CSS’s website: http://www.cssny.org.
July 27, 2015 | Posted by Tonya Pennington
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental illnesses and disorders are a major problem in the Black community. With a stigma surrounding it, and little coverage and representation of it in the media, it feels like this issue is a shameful thing to be avoided. Yet, statistics and many stories of struggle and tragedy show that we must face this or risk losing our loved ones.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide rates increased 233 percent across a recent fifteen-year span among African Americans ages 10-14. One-third of African Americans also can’t afford to receive help, and only two percent of mental health professionals are African American.
Part of the stigma attached to mental illness in Blacks is the idea that Black people shouldn’t get mental illness because we’ve become a strong race through hardship, and only white people have mental illnesses. We seem to have forgotten that we are just as human as anyone else and can have a variety of personal and socio-economic reasons for being mentally ill.
Soul Train host Don Cornelius, actor Lee Thompson Young, and blogger Karyn Washington are three Black people we’ve lost to mental illness and suicide in the past three years. Despite these tragedies, there have also been stories of resilience and hope. A recent article by a Black woman named Robbie Ann Darbie tells how she survived an eating disorder. Another recent article by Black blogger S.L. Young documents his battle with depression and how he is using his story to help others.
Other recent stories have been told via entertainment media. On an episode of the television series Empire, the character Andre Lyons was shown to have bi-polar disorder. At the beginning of the film Beyond The Lights, the main character Noni feels so stifled and invisible that she attempts suicide.
The worst thing you can do to a person suffering from mental illness is to make them feel that they have to deal with it alone and that no one understands their experience. While we are making progress, there is still a lot of work to be done to properly deal with mental illness.
An increase in media attention is a step in the right direction, but we also need more representation in the field. The community is in need of more Black psychologists and social workers, more easily accessible mental health services, and more resources like the Black Mental Health Alliance and Black Girls Smile.
Mental illness has no color, gender, age or any other demographic. It is something that everyone deals with and Blacks are no exception. We should not feel ashamed of mental illness. We should feel encouraged, because we can survive it.
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By Kirstin Fawcett July 8, 2015 | 10:47 a.m. EDT
Ian Anderson was only 5 years old when he began to lose interest in activities he once loved. He experienced mood dips and withdrew from his peers. His school performance suffered. And his mind was plagued with thoughts of suicide.
Anderson’s mother took him to a family therapy session, and he was diagnosed with depression. Soon after, Anderson started regularly going to therapy. At age 10, he was prescribed antidepressants.
“It’s hard to say whether [my depression was spurred] by genetics and a chemical imbalance in the brain, or whether it was because my parents had just divorced,” says Anderson, a 29-year-old retail manager who lives in the District of Columbia. “But it was clear that that I was showing very classic symptoms” of the illness.
Many people mistakenly believe depression is only diagnosed and treated in adolescents and adults. After all, kids don’t fully understand major life stressors or have the self-awareness and maturity to feel anything more than a shallow sense of sadness. Right?
Wrong. In recent years, experts say, the medical community has started to focus more on the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric depression – spurred by increased awareness of mental health conditions, as well as a growing body of research in the discipline.
According to pediatric psychiatrists, approximately 5 to 8 percent of children and adolescents suffer from depression at any given time. But while the numbers peak in adolescence – teens ages 13 to 16 are more likely to receive a diagnosis – physicians do report cases of depression in children as young as 2 years old.
Parents might want to wait for their kid to “snap out of” or “outgrow” their depression, mental health professionals say. But according to studies, early onset depression often persists into adulthood, and can signal that the child will experience more frequent and severe episodes in adolescence or adulthood.
“A child who experiences a major depressive episode probably has at least a 50 percent chance of having another episode in the next five years,” says Dr. John Huxsahl, a psychiatrist who specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Early diagnosis, intervention and treatment are key, experts say. Childhood depression is just as serious as adult mental illness – and should be treated as such.
Identifying Depression in Kids
Say your child isn’t sleeping well, or he is complaining of stomach aches, irritable bowel or migraines. He used to love going to the playground, but now barely leaves the couch. Kids who can talk will start expressing negative thoughts or sentiments; those who can’t will exhibit temperamental or reactive behavior. You take your child to a primary care or family physician for a screening. You’re looking for something, anything – a thyroid condition, low blood sugar – that might explain your once active, happy child’s mysterious symptoms.
By Kirstin Fawcett July 8, 2015 | 10:47 a.m. EDT
Your kid might lack the vocabulary or emotional savvy to explain what’s going on in his head. Adding to your confusion? A depressed child might act – and feel – slightly differently than his older counterparts with the same condition, Huxsahl says. Sure, they’ll share some symptoms – a loss of appetite, sleeping too much or too little, withdrawing from the world – but there are subtle distinctions.
For instance, kids with depression might not appear “sad” to others, nor will they be able to tell you they feel down. They might, however, act more irritable and angry than normal, or be prone to more arguments and temper tantrums.
Ahedonia – the inability to experience pleasure or joy – is another tell-tale symptom that your child might be depressed, Huxsahl notes.
“Children are generally happier than adults, and more spontaneous with their happiness,” Huxsahl says. “When young children are clinically depressed, you notice it’s like someone grabbed a thermostat that regulates their ability to regulate pleasure and dialed it down 20 degrees.”
Another common feeling associated with pediatric depression is guilt, says Dr. Timothy Wilens, chief of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Some adults report guilt as part of their depression, some don’t. But a lot of kids [with depression] will feel guilty about everything,” Wilens says. “They’ll feel guilty they’re not having fun, or that they’re holding their family back. They’ll feel guilty that they’re not doing anything. There’s guilt for a whole lot of reasons. You’ll see that more often with kids than you do adults.”
Psychosomatic complaints – a stomach ache, a headache – can be common among children with depression. And while adults with the illness often suffer in work performance, a kid with depression might start underperforming in school – not completing homework or assignments, doing poorly on tests and not paying attention in class.
Also, keep in mind that life circumstances often play a role in the development of depression in children, says Dr. Abby Schlesinger, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry. One of the most significant risk factors is a family history of mental illness. Kids with histories of abuse or neglect – physical and/or emotional – are also at a greater risk for developing depression, as are kids who experience traumas ranging from bullying or a major life change, such as a move, death or divorce.
“Negative, stressful life events in general can be triggers – particularly for children that are biologically sensitive because of their genetics,” Schlesinger says. Keep a close eye on whether the child also has any chronic illnesses, an anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or other conditions.
Reluctant to attribute your child’s recent behavior to depression? Think it might just be growing pains or a “phase?” Consider the duration and severity of the symptoms before writing them off, says Dr. Leslie Miller, an assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
“You want to look at how long [the symptoms] have been going on for, and you want to look at impairment,” Miller says. “Is this a kid who used to have a lot of peer interaction and now they’re withdrawing? Is this a kid who pretty much followed rules for the most part but is now having a tantrum every day? Are they barely passing their classes, or not able to get their homework in? Every kid has tantrums, and that’s normal and fine. But you have to look at patterns” to determine whether there’s something more serious going on.
One clear – and serious – indicator of pediatric depression is suicidal thoughts or behavior, Schlesinger says. Kids are more emotion-driven than adults, and don’t necessarily understand the finality of suicide. They’re less likely to plan it, and more likely to end their lives in an unpredictable manner. Although suicide in young children is rare – and a child isn’t necessarily going to end his life if it crosses his mind – it does happen.
According to the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide, suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents ages 15 to 24, as well as the sixth leading cause of death in children ages 5 to 14. Experts say a good psychiatric evaluation should include questions about suicidal thoughts or behaviors. And if a child has expressed suicidal thoughts to a parent, or shown warning signs – for instance, saying things like “I wish I were dead” – it’s important for the family to have a plan on how to handle worst-case scenarios.
“Children are impulsive by nature,” Schlesinger says. “If they have a strong negative emotion [and] they don’t have a plan how to manage it, then they’re at risk.” If your child has expressed suicidal thoughts, she advises parents to stay calm and supportive. Instead of freaking out, let the child know he or she can talk to you if he or she needs help. Plan coping strategies you child can utilize to make himself or herself feel better in the event of suicidal thoughts.
Treating Pediatric Depression
If you think your child has depression, should you take him straight to a mental health professional? Not necessarily, Wilens says. A pediatrician or family medical practitioner’s office is a good first stepping stone to receiving proper treatment. Not only do parents usually feel more comfortable consulting these doctors first, they can also weed out any psychological or physical problems that might either be masquerading as a depressive episode or complicate treatment. They’re also familiar with the child’s medical and personal history, which means they’ll have a good sense of whether anything’s abnormal.
However, the doctor will most likely not diagnose or treat a child for depression. Instead, he or she she will refer your son or daughter to a pediatric psychiatrist or psychologist.
If your child’s been diagnosed with depression, what’s next? Experts recommend evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy as a first-line method of treatment for mild or moderate depression. However, if symptoms persist with no sign of relief, medication might be necessary.
The jury’s still out on how antidepressants affect the developing brain. And experts are quick to mention the black-box warning on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants. Issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004, the warnings inform patients that these medicines are associated with an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in some young people. However, certain medicines are approved for the treatment of pediatric depression. Each patient’s treatment is highly individualized, although studies indicate that a combination of medication and therapy tends to be more effective than therapy or medication alone.
No matter which method of treatment you choose, Miller says, it’s important parents are involved every step of the way. Their role is paramount – and not just because they’re the ones schlepping the child to doctor’s appointments and therapy.
“You really want the parent to be part of treatment, and to buy into what the treatment plan is,” Miller says. “If you’re deciding to go the medication route, you want everyone to be the same page” in terms of dosage and compliance. “With therapy, you want the parent to reinforce the skills [the child is learning].”
A typical depressive episode lasts about nine months, Schlesinger says. And there’s a chance kids can get better without any intervention. “But nine months is a long time for a kid,” Schlesinger points out – and you don’t want him or her to miss developmental milestones or lose out on any possible benefits of treatment.
Living with Pediatric Depression
How does a parent broach the subject of clinical depression – or even try to describe what it is – to a child? Schlesinger likens it to any other treatable medical illness, such as diabetes or asthma.
“Kids don’t have any stigma associated with the word depression. Adults do,” Schlesinger says. “I use the word ‘depression’ [with] them because I want them to know what it is. And I want them to know you can use the word ‘illness’ [for depression] because they know what illnesses are. They know what a cold is. Even young kids know there are things they can do to stay healthy or get better when they’re feeling bad. So I try to use parallels to other things they’ve experienced and say, ‘This is just another illness like that. If you do the right things, you can feel better.'”
Medicines and or/therapy often take a while to work, so tell your child it could take time before he starts to feel better. He might also experience side effects from medication, need to change medications or, in rare instances, stop taking them altogether.
Work in tandem with experts to make sure your child’s improving. Doctors recommend adhering to treatments such as medication and therapy until a full remission of symptoms is achieved. Not completing a course of treatment heightens the risk of relapse, and might also contribute to future depressive episodes.
And don’t neglect the importance of education, Miller says. “Learn the warning signs and red flags so both you and your children can be aware of what a future depressive episode might look like. This can help you catch it earlier,” she advises.
By catching depression early, Wilens says, you can help your child enjoy being a kid. “You have one journey through childhood,” he says. “You want that child to enjoy their life.”
DEPRESSION IS A THIEF
It’s an illness that can rob you of your will to live. It can also steal:
The pleasure from things that used to give you joy
Your physical energy and strength
Your connections to friends and family
Your ability to handle stress