Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Letter of the day: Remove stigma from mental-health struggles

Published:Wednesday | May 13, 2015 | 5:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

As I glanced through the Sunday paper, imagine my profound sadness when I saw yet another individual - a teacher - has committed suicide. This, off the heels of a series of recent losses the nation has experienced by means of suicide.

What I find even more disheartening is the views of both friends and within the public, expressing that only a coward and a "weak-willed person" commits such a desperate act. This underscores that not only do we, as a people, not understand the psychological complexity of someone who commits suicide, but we either cannot or tend not to empathise with their emotional turmoil.

The more underlying issue, however, is the society's under-standing of mental health and the pervasive stigma of mental illness, which, in turn, acts as a preventative factor from seeking emotional and mental-health treatment.

As a mental-health clinician, I have met several individuals - both youth and adults - who have experienced all-encompassing depression that leads them to believe that suicide is their only option. In fact, a client once shared with me that "you never truly understand how it feels until you are in the situation ... ; it feels as if someone has taken you out to the middle of the ocean, pushed you over, expecting you to swim to land when you, in fact, cannot swim. Thus you're destined to drown."

Though this client was able to see that suicide was not her only option and was able to once again find happiness and fulfilment in life, many people are not able to, because they cannot see past their negative perception and experiences. This is a monumental task for someone who is depressed, and one that should not be ventured alone.

 

BATTLING STIGMA

 

Yes, at times various levels of support (in terms of family and friends) are able to help, but often times when depression is severe, further professional help is warranted. However, because of our culture of stigma and shame as it relates to mental health, many individuals wait until their breaking point before they seek help - if they ever do.

Given the inherent stressors of a strained financial economy, a regressive and frustrating society and intra- and interpersonal difficulties, embracing psychological services is not only important but essential. I firmly believe that seeking out psychological help is healthy, and would like to see more Jamaicans embrace this notion without shame.

ALEX GARDNER

gardneralex5@gmail.com

Associate Clinical Psychologist