Thursday, June 7, 2018

No More Blame

Today’s guest post by Rebecca Niburg is a look at mental illness and suicide, prompted by the news of designer Kate Spade’s untimely death.

For many years, mental health issues have been a particular problem for women. Not only are women more apt to have mental health issues (…/…/women-and-mental-illness;…/depression-women) but the way that women have been treated and stereotyped ("hysterical female" and "too emotional for the workplace" for example) means that there is a stigma and societal framework surrounding getting help for mental health.

In addition, this isn't a "one size fits all" problem or issue, different groups have different issues (…/minority-mental-health). The numbers for suicide specifically, however, show that minorities (except for native peoples) are less likely to die by suicide ( Minorities do have a high instance of depression and PTSD however (not surprising considering how we as a society treat Latinx, AA, and other minority groups especially under but not limited to the current administration).

Suicide is also not a young person's problem. The age group most likely to die by suicide is 45-54 and second likely is over age 85.

Mental health research and resources have been chronically underfunded and this administration has taken steps to further reduce the money available. The organization which does the most research into suicide prevention is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (full disclosure, I served as the Walk co-/chair for AFSP in Howard County for the past 3 years). NAMI is another organization working on mental health issues as a whole (not specific to suicide like AFSP)

So, what can you do? The first thing is to focus on the language that you use so that you aren't unintentionally contributing to the stigma or playing into outdated ideas. For example, saying someone "committed suicide" has a blame component - would you say someone intentionally caused a heart attack? or cancer? same idea - mental illness caused the suicide, not the person. My most apt used phrase when talking about mental illness and suicide is "don't ascribe logic, mental illness doesn't use logic and someone having a mental health crisis is having the disease speak for/through them." Similarly, don't call someone "crazy" because they are acting in a way you don't like. Using words associated with mental illness for people acting poorly draws a correlation between "bad behavior" and mental illness and thereby stigmatizes people suffering from the illness.…/…/21/suicide-language/…/calling-people-crazy-ocd-or-psycho-…

The second thing you can do is to visit resources like this: and share resources like this:

Also, if anyone wants to walk with me in Columbia MD at the end of September, I'd love to have you join me. Its also an easy way to make a donation to help fight suicide and brings a supportive community together (if every member made a $5 donation, think about how much that would be!). There are multiple walks all over the area if Howard County isn't convenient for you and you can find  links to those Walks from the AFSP page.…


Rebecca Niburg began advocating on mental health issues after losing a friend to suicide in 2011 and has served as chair/co-chair of the Howard County Out of the Darkness Walk for the past 3 years.

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