Even with the recent passing of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, mental health is a topic still not easily discussed. Kate Spade, one of fashion’s most notable forces, sadly took her own life last month leaving behind her husband and daughter.
While we’re making great strides in increasing Mental Health Awareness, the subject still tends to feel a bit taboo. This matter should surely be handled with caution but we cannot shy away from having the conversation. Communication is an important aspect of recovery, maintenance and even survival.
The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) reports that 90% of suicide victims had an underlying mental illness. I spoke with renowned psychology and mental health expert Stephen P. Hinshaw, Ph.D. hoping to gain some insight due to his expertise in clinical and developmental psychology, neuroscience and stigma.
1. What are some red flags that indicate a loved one is suffering from mental health issues?
Loss of interest in usual interests; suspicion of drug use to cope; shutting down; isolating himself/herself. There are many different ‘signs’, but look for real divergences from the loved one’s usual patterns.
2. How should you assist someone struggling with their mental health? Also, what shouldn’t you do?
You should NOT ignore it or pretend it will go away. You should NOT assume that by raising the issue, you’ll be suggesting depression, or even suicidal thoughts, to the person. Rather, even though there may be initial resistance, the person will often be relieved that someone is ‘on’ to their struggles and is reaching out.
3. Which subjects do you feel are taboo? What do you wish more people knew about these subjects?
In this day and age of social media and disclosure, there really should be nothing that’s taboo at this point. Even so, admitting to symptoms of depression/bipolar disorder/PTSD/anxiety/etc. is still too often believed to be a sign of weakness–because of the major stigma that still exists.
4. What resources do you recommend to anyone assisting a loved one through this process?
Take care of your own needs, too, and get support for yourself. Expect resistance from the loved one; let them know that you’re there, and not judging, but instead wanting them to thrive.
5. What other options are available to those who have a loved one refusing help?
This is a HUGE issue. For people with really serious mental disorders, there’s often real denial of any inner problems (instead, the blame is directed outwards to others). And, with the extension of civil rights protections from racial minorities and women to people with mental disorders, around 50 years ago, it’s REALLY hard to force an adult into treatment against his or her will. Call support groups, try to rally others around the loved one.
6. Why do you believe successful people commit suicide?
Sometimes ‘success’ (money, fame, etc.) can lead to a false sense of self and a false sense of self-worth. Core values can get lost in the midst of adoring fans, or large paychecks, or huge followings, etc. etc. True happiness is not what it might appear to be from outside ‘rewards.’
7. What preventative measures do you think can be taken in the future to help those who seem unbreakable?
Bottom line–everyone needs support.
8. What advice do you have for those who think this issue can’t affect them?
Under great strain, even the best-engineered bridge might begin to falter. Even the best-engineered car needs tune-ups. As I said above, everyone needs support, and it’s FAR from a sign of weakness to reach out and accept help.
9. Do you believe therapy can benefit everybody involved?
Maybe not EVERYONE, but most people can benefit–if there’s a good match with the counselor/therapist and if hard work is put in.
10. Are there any final thoughts you’d like to leave Trend Prive Magazine readers with?
Everyone needs other people and everyone, even the most seemingly independent individuals, needs understanding and support.
One thing for certain, communication and support go hand in hand when dealing with this matter. There are also many resources available to you. Regardless of your personal feelings or circumstances, you’re never alone. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness, totaling to over 43 million people.
If you or a loved one you know is suffering, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline via phone 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. This organization has specific resources ranging from loss/disaster survivors to attempt survivors. They also offer volunteer opportunities for those who simply want to lend a helping hand.
Another great resource, NAMI, has an informational site that even includes an interactive stigma quiz. The quiz has been completed by various celebrities in support of Mental Health Awareness and removing stigma. The grassroots organization identifies stigma as a huge reason why those suffering are ashamed or too afraid to seek help. You can learn more by visiting their site at https://www.nami.org/, calling their hotline 1-800-950-6264, or texting NAMI to 741741.