WARNING: This post contains references to suicide, if you are feeling upset and depressed and require assistance please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636.
If I see or hear reference that ‘suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem’ one more time I will scream. Yes you could say I am on another rant but what do I do when I see these types of references displayed and talked about in the public arena like it is some trivial matter. If I knew who had come up with this slogan I would definitely be writing to them but people have this habit of making such statements and not putting their name to it, probably because they know that the likes of me would get fired up and object, and then allowing it to be spread through the cyber world like a virus.
I have a number of issues with this statement some of which for most of us are obvious other issues which people who have not experienced suicide or attempts of suicide may not consider. Are these the types of statements we need travelling around cyber space and infiltrating our Facebook newsfeeds? What does this statement do for preventing suicide? And from reading such a statement what do we expect the reader to do with this message? What impact does this message have on the most vulnerable in our communities who live with a mental illness? Yes a lot of questions, but that is what happens when people choose to make such damaging statements.
Fatal and non-fatal suicide is hardly trivial and does not warrant slogans that trivialise and play down the seriousness of suicide to not only the community but to those suffering from mental illness and who are already vulnerable. To indicate that people with a mental illness only have a temporary problem is not only inappropriate but shows a lack of education, compassion, and understanding of mental illnesses and suicide. I don’t write as a professional in mental illness but I do write from someone who has attempted suicide and experienced the consequences of these actions and the illness that has lead to an attempt upon my life. Who in their right mind would think that someone would try to take their own life for a ‘temporary problem’, if it was so temporary do you think we would end up in this situation where we are thinking that we can’t live any longer, would we be living with this illness for more than a temporary amount of time? For most who have a mental illness it is an illness and for most it is permanent, it doesn’t go away because we are on medication or having therapy we live with it every day, every night, rain, hail or shine. In no way is mental illness temporary like the common cold, we live with it most of our lives in some form or another.
I also have an issue with the use of the word ‘solution’. At no time before I attempted to take my own life did I think of this as a solution, when you are mentally ill you can’t really think let alone think about what solutions there may be for your illness, how you are feeling, and what your next step is. If there was a so called solution to mental illness that would make this a ‘temporary problem’ go away or provide us with an immediate cure to recovery do you think there would be millions of people around the world living with a mental illness, one in five living with depression? I hardly would think so. There are no solutions to mental illness. There are preventative measures, there are support mechanisms, and there are medications and therapies. Solutions pertain to solving a problem or a situation. You do not ‘solve’ mental illness you treat it to minimise the symptoms and the impact on one’s life and mental health.
If the intention of this slogan was to prevent suicide or to increase the awareness of suicide then it fails to hit the mark in this regard. To prevent suicide is to provide resources, support and treatment options to those with a mental illness, these are very specific and tailored to the individuals needs. To make people more aware of suicide is to start conversations about what people can do to assist those around them that have a mental illness or who are displaying the signs of depression or other mental illnesses. To increase awareness is to provide positive, informative and responsive messaging that does not trivialise, that highlights the significance and the impact of suicide to individuals, to families and to the wider community. In no way does this slogan or message do any of these things. For one, I don’t think that this message has any value or promotes any action that may assist those who are mentally ill, if anything it heightens their vulnerability.
There is so much written about trying to breakdown the stigma attached to mental illness. To do this organisations and individuals worldwide are doing considerable work to raise awareness, educate, promote, and facilitate peoples understanding of mental illness. When we brand suicide and mental illness with slogans such as these it works in building stigma in the community and downplaying the seriousness of mental illness.
As someone who has lived with a mental illness for many years and who has been so ill that I have attempted to take my own life I am not just offended and angry about this slogan I am very disappointed that in this day and age where so many organisations are doing such positive work to help the mentally ill, to breakdown stigma and to prevent suicide that these types of messages can still be made and promoted. I don’t profess to know what goes through someone’s brain to think that this slogan is appropriate or worth putting out in cyber world, I probably don’t want to know, because it will just make me angrier.
What the community needs to read is how they can help the people around them to prevent suicide and to ensure that those most vulnerable to mental illness and suicide receive help, support and treatment. We need to design messaging and resources that talk about a serious illness with potentially fatal consequences with the seriousness and professionalism that it warrants. For those with a mental illness that are having suicidal thoughts what they need to read is how they can get help, what number they can call to get support, they don’t need to read slogans that make them feel worse and heightens their vulnerability. I am just one voice objecting to such a slogan, for us to live in a community where these messages aren’t displayed we all need to have a voice, to say this is not appropriate!