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National Mental Health Awareness Month: Reducing Stigma is Critical for Seeking Help

This month is National Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a somber reality that many people’s lives have been impacted by depression, anxiety, or the struggles of loved ones with such painful symptoms. Living with chronic anxiety or depression can color one’s entire view of life and drain joy and pleasure from it. Depression is a potentially lethal illness, leading in some cases to suicide. The loss of a loved one is always painful, and the untimely or unexpected loss of a loved one is the most frequently cited traumatic event leading to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as seen from studies across the globe. Suicide of a loved one is one of the most devastating types of losses. The loss of a loved one to suicide leaves all those around in anguish and turmoil of profound grief, guilt, anger, feelings of abandonment, compounded by tormenting irrational regret and ruminations about what could have, should have, been noticed, what did one miss, what might have prevented the tragedy.

In recent times, some prominent people have shared the stories of their families or their own stories of battling mental health issues, or struggling with the long-term effects of various types of traumatic events. David Axelrod, a senior CNN political commentator and host of “The Axe Files,” was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and chief strategist for the 2008 and 2012 Obama presidential campaigns. He is one of the brave individuals who have recently decided to open up, and he spoke about the trauma he suffered as a college student when his father suicided. Another brave person who decided to share with the public her profound trauma is Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general of the United States, whose father, Judge John Kelley Quillian, died by suicide in 1986. (See more of their stories at this link.)

Speaking about depression, trauma and mental illness is the key to finding help, which can save lives. Depression, and other mental health problems, are often treatable. We have to offer the social context in which individuals who suffer from such profoundly difficult conditions can ask for help without shame or worry about how they would be looked at.

Axelrod and Quillian describe the difficulties that prevented them, like many others, from speaking about the suicide of their fathers, and say: “But by sharing our stories, perhaps we can encourage others to seek the help that eluded our fathers.”

More information, and help, can be found from the resources of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available by clicking on the image below.


Irit Felsen

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