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What is 'Stigma'?
Stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. In some ways, the stigma around mental disorders can be more dangerous than the disorder itself. The disorders can usually be managed and improved with the proper medical care but due to the stigma surrounding it, many feel too embarrassed to speak up and ask for the help that they need.
An Insider's Perspective;
I have heard the phrase "Suicide is selfish" all too often, and to be honest I passionately disapprove of it. The argument is that "The pain was not erased, it was only passed on to their loved ones left behind." No, the pain the loved ones are feeling is grief—which don't get me wrong, can take your breath and turn your life upside down in a split second... but it doesn't end it. The pain the suicide victim felt was something else... something so dark and consistently tormenting that a fellow human being could not see it physically possible to survive it another second. It is a hurt that never stops aching, and no matter how often you smile or attempt to reassure yourself, it rears its ugly head at the most unexpected moments.
So for just a moment, put your feet in these shoes. One moment you tell yourself "Everything is as it should be, I am happy" and then what seems like the next moment, this familiar dark cloud spreads like a fog over the mind; clouding the optimism you were clinging to, dimming any inspiration and motivation you thought you had, tormenting you with every single possible scenario that could go wrong putting you in a constant state of distress and fear... Time and time again you pull yourself back out of this hole that no one even knew you were repeatedly buried alive in. It's so exhausting and you don't even know how to explain why you're tired, so you don't even try. Besides, even if you could, the typical "It's all in your head," "You'll be alright," "Just think positive" self- help hacks are just, quite frankly, not at all helpful.
Suicide is a tragedy. It is the loss of a sensitive soul from this planet which ironically are the Souls' that this Planet so desperately needs on it. These people, they feel things so very deeply... and often times they are so empathetic that they unknowingly take on the suffering of those around them. I think the biggest misconception this Societal Stigma has caused is the belief that those suffering with depression, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, and the like make up a small part of our population. That is simply not true and this can be seen in the staggering suicide statistics around the globe.
These disorders are often recurring, playing on a loop. Bipolar especially, is known to cause constant bouts of manic and depressive episodes. This means that rarely ever are suicidal thoughts a solitary event. These thoughts will likely haunt these victims often, showing up unpredictably, most likely anytime they are triggered with traumatic memories or "flashbacks." Flashbacks are especially common in PTSD sufferers. Certain words, smells, or even emotions can trigger a reaction from the body identical to the initial reaction to the traumatic event itself, such as racing heart, trembling, sweating, and of course feeling the emotions triggered from the original event. Until these traumas are properly processed (usually with the help of a therapist) every flashback is like reliving the traumatic experience over and over again with a full mind/body simulation. Scientifically, traumatic memories are stored in the brain until they are processed and the Stigma around asking for professional help to process these things prevents many, many lives from being saved.
There are people all around us suffering silently. Feeling alone when there are countless others feeling the same. I was a silent sufferer, and I look back and wonder how I made it so far without reaching out to someone. I can't count the times my mind lied to me and told me that my existence and pain didn't matter, to anyone, not even me anymore. I don't know every suicide story but I do know this with certainty: it is not the easy way out. It is the most intimidating, terrifying, painful decision to make on behalf of yourself and leaving your family behind is an enormous sacrifice to be forced to make to free yourself of suffering. On the contrary, expecting someone you love to live on in silent torment because you feel good when they are here, can also be considered quite selfish.
Mental Health is equally as important as physical health and it should be treated as such. We all go through difficult times and we all face a point where we will need to ask for help. My passionate hope for you is that when you need help, you have the courage to ask for it. I hope that before another life is stolen that we can break these negative stereotypes around mental illnesses. I hope that someday soon we will be relieved to ask for help, as we should; The fear of being looked at as lesser than is gone, the shame attached to being diagnosed has dissipated, and humanity as a unit has evolved be honest and understanding about mental health struggles. We stop calling cries for help cries for attention and we have genuine compassion for those around us.
I'm very hopeful.