Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
A few months ago, an email arrived asking for my participation in The Pennsylvania Adult and Older Adult Suicide Prevention Coalition’s revision of the Adult and Older Adult Suicide Prevention Plans. My voice, just one in this big state, is affecting how Pennsylvania will view suicide and support for those in need.
A statewide advisory committee and a “Mental Health Matters” grant from the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services are creating an atmosphere of knowledge where ignorance and stigma presently reign.
Besides asking my opinion on effective ways to get the word out, the PAOASPC requested a personal statement from my experience. This statement has become a formal part of the new official plans to prevent suicide in Pennsylvania.
Revisions are in their final stages. Priorities for the finalized action plan include my written opinions in the order I voiced them. Is that because I am so special and extraordinarily learned in the field of advocacy? No. It is simply because a consistent theme runs through the stories of suicide attempt survivors – knowledgeable support is effective support, and effective support prevents suicide.
The need for suicidal persons to believe there is help and hope is equally important. This is another reason stigma must be defeated. In a knowledgable world, supports will know how to react when a person indicates suicidal thinking, and those who deal with mood disorders will learn how to express their desperation without fear.
So much can be and must be said publicly, with boldness and without shame. You can help by putting the topic out there, bringing it up as you would any other bit of news. Instead of, “So-n-so celebrity killed himself, what a shame,” how about, “So -n-so celebrity had no hope left. Too bad he didn’t know help was available.”
Simple changes in our language and focusing on solutions instead of stigma will make this world a better, safer, place for each of us. We will hear of fewer suicides when the hush-hush is gone, replaced by truth and understanding.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*picture from Qualitystockphotos.com