Thursday, July 27, 2017

Do We Need More Talk about Suicide?

God only knows how this article was accepted for publication in the New York Times. The author is a recent college graduate, so he offers us a glimpse into what college students are learning. It is not heartening.

Joseph Rigo suffered from depression. When he was a teenager he engaged in self-mutilating behaviors, now called cutting. He was depressed throughout his college years.

And he has figured out that many people around the world suffer from mental illness. It’s good that a college education taught him about statistics. And it has also taught him the solution: we do not talk about mental illness enough. Somehow or other, when he was depressed he did not know about depression and so did not know that therapy (and medication) was available.

Perhaps Rigo lives under a rock, but, in truth, depression and mental illness are all people talk about. One wishes that people would shut up about mental illness. Because, all the talk is giving people ideas. We do know, according to symptom selection theory, that the more you talk about mental illness, the more you produce it.

Where do you think he learned about cutting? Perhaps from a movie of the week. Perhaps in the news, in a magazine or on television? As for depression, did Rigo miss Prozac?

He writes:

In the United States, nearly one in five adults have some form of mental illness in a given year. That means that 43.8 million adults, nearly twice the population of Australia, experience a mental health disorder every year.

Yet more often than not, we don’t talk about mental health. And shows like Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” or artists like indie pop singer Lana Del Rey have sensationalized or glamorized mental illness and suicide rather than taking it seriously.

Obviously, Rigo is running a marketing campaign for therapy. One is surprised to know that he has never heard about medication.

He describes his own condition:

In college, I became even more depressed. I would cry myself to sleep. My weight fluctuated by 10 to 20 pounds each semester. I would drink to forget and in my drunken blurs I leaned far too heavily and unfairly on friends who were just as lost and scared as I was. During what felt like the worst period of my depression, I took a health and wellness class my junior year. In that class, we discussed nutrition, healthy relationships and conflict resolution skills. We even had a unit on “stress management and resiliency.” But we never talked about mental illness or how to recognize or treat it.

Now, he wants us to believe that no one around him noticed that he was not doing well. Does he have parents or siblings? Did any of them see that something was amiss? Don’t they have resident advisers on college campuses? Don’t we all know that more and more college students have lately availed themselves of campus mental health services? What did they know that he did not know? The notion that no one discussed wellness in a course suggests an extremely narrow scope.

Now Rigo wants people to come forth and tell their stories about mental health issues. Has he never heard of William Styron’s Darkness Visible? Or Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon? And let’s not forget Peter Kramer’s Listening to Prozac? We all recall Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy and Emile Durkheim's Suicide

Rigo writes:

We should not be afraid to come forward or tell our stories about our struggles with these issues. We should be open to learning the symptoms and the signs of mental health disorders. We should encourage everyone (not just those with mental health issues) to seek therapy because therapy is good for your mind just as exercise is good for your body.

If anything, we talk about suicide and depression too much. Why do people know so little? And why do they insist on advertising it?


trigger warning said...

Yep, we need more sharing. A 24/7 cable channel would be a good start. Too bad Al Gore's Current channel isn't available anymore. Jerry Springer, call your office.

Sam L. said...

Could this be part of why that Chinese guy (two posts up) is disappointed with the US?