Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Silent Social Issue

    When I think of controversial social issues, I think of the Black Lives Matter Movement, LGBTQ rights, racism, police brutality, and (to some extend) the election. I also think of sexual assault, alcoholism, and sexual assault specifically on college campuses. One thing that I don't really think about is mental health. In fact, I don't think I'm alone in that. In today's society, we have a major ability to reach out and share information and ideas with people around the world in seconds. A few clicks and a swipe on a keyboard and computer mouse can open doors to people all around the world.

    By now, newspapers and news media outlets across the world are reporting the story of a Cedartown girl who ended her own life during a video stream of some sort. News papers in Belgium, England, and Nigeria, along with major US news sources such as The New York Post, have all shared some, if not all, of the story. Even People Magazine has published a version of the story. To put it mildly, thousands of people have heard the story.

     However, I have questions.  What have we learned from all of this? What can be changed by the way the world reports suicide? Why can't we work to make sure that children who are, for whatever reason, feeling as if their life is worthless realize that they are worth so much and that life does truly get better? Why are we still, in the year 2017, discussing mental health as an issue "in the shadows" instead of upfront?

     It seems simple to me. No one wants to talk about getting help. For some reason the thought of finishing up an article about suicide without a way of addressing that there are resources that one can go to for help or even just call hasn't crossed many of the news outlets their minds. How hard is it if, when sharing an article concerning mental health issues (such as depression, suicide, etc...) that information for where to get help is shared along with it? For printed newspapers, a little bit more ink? Online? An extra minute at most to type up the information? It seems like a small price to pay for giving people access to something that could possibly turn their life around.

      Through watching these articles and stories being shared globally, I've learned that so many people don't have a grasp on mental health. I've learned that so many people have stigma's and stereotypes surrounding mental health that proves how uneducated people are when it comes to mental health. I've learned that many people don't understand how much actions and words can truly play a role on and in someone's life. I myself am not a stranger to being affected by suicide. In fact, I'm willing to bet that we all, in some form or fashion, have been affected by suicide at least once in our lives. At the end of the day, even if you can't find a way to share any information for where someone can turn to for help, or have the ability to go to a trusted adult or school counselor about concerns for another person, just remind people that they are worth something; remind them that they are wonderful and incredible.

      However, the biggest thing I've learned is that it's well past time we stopped addressing mental health in the shadows and started addressing mental health up front as a society.

*If you or anyone you know is dealing with mental health issues, please do not be afraid to seek help....

National Suicide Prevention lifeline
Crisis Text Line
Georgia Crisis and Access Line
School Counselors
Religious leaders, etc....

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