Whenever a well-known entity commits suicide, we’re subjected to at least a month or two of everyone spreading messages about suicide prevention. The main take-away is usually something along the lines of ‘reach out to your loved ones’ and ‘seek help if you need it’. The people who spread these messages and advice are well-intentioned, I’m sure. They don’t want people to feel alone and they’re convinced that if you just tell people you love them, that’s enough.
You need to do more than just ask someone if they’re okay. We’ve all been asked if we’re okay a thousand times, but we know you don’t really want to hear the real answer. We know because we’ve given it before – and had people recoil from us. We can feel the dread when the response people get isn’t ‘I’m fine’. We can see that our illness is an inconvenience. So, we fold back in on ourselves and put the smile back on, just to ensure your comfort.
Loving someone doesn’t heal them. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, do you all just tell them you love them and assume that they’ll be fine? No. Because cancer is a disease that requires a lot more intensive care, time, money, and exhaustive research. There is no cure for cancer, only different treatments that can buy more time in some cases if effective. Love doesn’t cure cancer.
Mental illness is a disease. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, paranoia, disassociation…these are diseases. You can’t cure them by telling your loved ones that you love them. That’s a beautiful sentiment and I’m sure hearing it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but it’s crap. Yes, we want to be loved. Yes, it’s easier with a support system. But what we need is acknowledgment that what we’re suffering with is a disease, not a ‘mindset’. There is no cure for mental illness. There are only treatments that can stave off symptoms for a time, and that’s when and if you’re fortunate enough to find the right cocktail of medications to work for your specific illnesses. Love doesn’t cure mental illness.
Just as cancer treatment is astronomically costly, so is mental health care. You tell people to seek help if they’re feeling lost, suicidal, aren’t coping well with their illness – but you give no thought or consideration to the cost of that ‘help’. You don’t consider it ‘treatment’, and most health insurance agrees with you. I have what’s considered one of the best health insurance policies in the states, through my employer, and mental health treatment isn’t covered. It isn’t considered a necessity.
I’ve spent two months researching and seeking a therapist or counselor to help me. If I can’t afford upwards of $200/session (that’s usually just an hour), then I can’t afford the treatment that I need to cope with my mental illness. That’s the bottom line. I have a psychological illness that is clinically diagnosed, but receiving psychological treatment isn’t covered by medical insurance.
Stop telling people who are suffering with mental illness that it’s their responsibility to seek help. We ARE seeking HELP. We just can’t GET ANY.
Stop the mentality that suicide is a selfish act. Suicide is a last resort when a lifetime of suffering becomes relentlessly unbearable and there is no cure – nor is anyone interested in finding one, because our illness isn’t considered a ‘disease’.
And please, for the love of GOD, stop assuming that every suicide is a result of mental illness. There are people who do commit suicide due to situational circumstances that they might have overcome if they had a support system and someone to tell them that it would pass. There are people who commit suicide as a means to achieve some sick legacy, too. I’m not talking about those circumstances. I’m talking about people with mental illness, not people who glorify suicide as a way of getting revenge on people who have wronged you (I’m looking at you, 13 Reasons Why). And the people who think this way about suicide, the people who use it as a weapon, the people who glorify it as a way of revenge, they’re hurting those with mental illness more than anyone else.
Until mental health is treated like a real disease, people suffering from mental illnesses like bipolar, depression, paranoia, and other illnesses are never going to receive the treatment and care that they need to live full and happy lives. So, here’s a better list of advice for people who want to keep people alive:
- Stop saying you’re ‘depressed’ because you’re experiencing a minor disappointment.
- Stop saying you’re ‘bipolar’ because you can’t make up your mind or you’re feeling moody.
- Stop saying you’re ‘paranoid’ because you think someone is lying to you.
- Stop saying you have ‘anxiety’ because you’re experiencing slight discomfort about something that anyone would be a bit uncomfortable about.
- Stop saying you’re ‘OCD’ because you have attention to detail.
- Stop using mental illnesses as adjectives, period.
- Stop insinuating that people with mental illness are only claiming that they have that as an excuse for their symptomatic behavior.
- Stop silencing people who ARE trying to be open and honest about their mental illness by invalidating them with accusations of them being attention-seeking.
- If you ask someone if they need help, be prepared to actually help them. Empty words are empty. A false lifeline is no better than someone pushing our head under the water when we realize they don’t actually care.
- Fight for us. Fight for mental health care. Fight for our right to affordable treatment.
- Educate yourself.
I’m sorry that a one-sentence tweet of ‘Tell them you love them’ isn’t the cure for mental illness. That would be really convenient for everyone and I know it makes people who don’t have mental illness feel better about themselves, but it’s just crap. It’s crap. Don’t tell me you love. LOVE me. Love me by helping me get real help, not just telling me to get help. Love me by being there when it isn’t comfortable or convenient. Love me in action, because your words mean literally nothing.
And if you can’t or won’t do any of that, then stop pretending that you care. You don’t.