Is the Mental Health Movement Helping?

I’m really not sure.

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I don’t want to hide the fact I’ve experienced a major mental illness. It’s part of my life story. I know that from the depths of despair survival can happen.

Since being back ‘on the other side’ — in recovery, or perhaps simply able to take for granted I can function with daily tasks; that getting through a minute or an hour of a day is not a momentous task, weighed down in the agony of mental illness, I have been quick to support all movements towards acknowledging mental illness and helping others who are suffering such challenges feel less alone.

But lately I’m just not sure. Are these movements helping? Are the suicide statistics decreasing? I’m aware of recent suicides, for example, in ‘successful’ business people, and such tragic losses have rocked my world quite a bit even lately though I don’t know the people personally. Smart, capable people with access to resources designed to assist those at risk.

What’s going wrong? These losses are continuing, with those wide devastating ripple effects, including coinciding around awareness campaigns such as World Mental Health Day.

Is it the enormity of accepting one is unwell; mentally? Of joining a group where stigma has been rampant for so long? Where voices which were once silenced by institutions and archaic treatments are becoming more than just a silent murmur? Perhaps those vulnerable people who today see suicide as a convincing option do not want to enter such a world? Where people are fighting to no longer feel ostracized and alienated, cast aside with terrible labels such as loony or crazy.

I’d like to know the answer. To stop people from shortening their already short stays on this earth. The answer that helps them to move past hopelessness and be able to add rich experience after rich experience to their journey on this earth.

To those people who are still dying by suicide I’d like to see this permanent solution reversed — that instead of acting on pain that seems intolerable at that time and wanting to be free of problems that appear insurmountable in that moment, these people would feel a sense of belonging. Not belonging particularly to a group of people with mental health concerns but to humanity in general — where we all at times feel life is too hard, too painful and too uncertain.

So gathering the fear and hurt in their hearts, these vulnerable people instead of taking their own lives, allow another day where there is a chance of hope — of healing and recovery. Suicide doesn’t give that possibility.

I really do dig mental health awareness groups and organizations. I’m just not sure now if perhaps we are separating people out too much — between those who have experienced or experience mental illness and those who don’t?

Can we move towards just connecting more generally as people who experience hardship and suffering? Where we simply learn to look out for each other as the imperfect human beings we are and we acknowledge more freely that, at some times and in some places, we just want to give up? Through this greater acknowledgement of sameness in terms of human frailty the tangle of human vulnerabilities may not feel so insurmountable.

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