Mental illness, is it a disease? Is it just a figment of a person’s brain? Why is it so common? Lastly, why are adolescents burdens with this dark cloud of mental illnesses and suicide? I never really had any type of contact with mental illnesses as a child, it wasn’t till middle school when it started to become prevalent in my life. As a dramatic 14-year-old, I thought I was depressed and wanted to kill myself. By high school, I saw it as a phase of just getting through middle school years. But as I have gotten older, depression and anxiety have always had this cloud over me.
I grew up in the small town of Rockford, where I went to school at Freeman. We honestly were pretty sheltered from the world. Going to a small school, you don’t have to worry about things like mentally ill people right? No, turns out that is very wrong. The freeman community has experienced some of the most horrifying accidents. There’s been several cancer cases, suicides, and one shooting. After that, it changed my life forever and how I see things. This kid that I have been going to school with forever, committed suicide the summer before my junior year. When I heard about it, I was so shocked. It really took a toll on me, all I could think about is what could I have done to make him want to stay alive. But instead, I sat there next to him in English class every day, never saying one word to him. Maybe one word could have saved his life. Another suicide happened, He graduated from Freeman about 5 years back and just out of nowhere he was dead. Then the shooting happened. If you talk to any kid that goes to Freeman, they will say that we thought we were cursed. I just thought, why? Why are these innocent people dying? Why isn’t anyone doing anything about it? Then I knew that something had to change.
We can’t go through life ignoring the fact that there are mental illnesses and people need to be helped. First, what is a Mental illness? It is health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior. Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities. Different types of mental illnesses are anxiety, mood disorder, eating disorders, personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. One main disorder that is related back to suicide is depression. In the article, “Depression, suicide and deliberate self-harm in adolescence” written by Richard Harrington, he explains how to determine whether someone is depressed and how severe it can be. The basic way to find out whether an adolescent has depression starts with a basic question of diagnosis. Start with interviewing the young person alone, it is not reliable to take ay account from parents because sometimes they are the ones that are most blind to it. There are some huge indicators that the person is depressed or suicidal such as, weight loss or suicidal planning/attempts. Polysymptomatic depressive states that if depression lasts more than six weeks, there should be an intervention. If the person is depressed, there are certain ways to handle the situation.
The assessment may include how the child reacts to situations. For an example, if the depression is mild, an approach of sympathetic conversations with the child and parents can help reduce any stress. On the other hand, if the depression is severe, treatment will be enforced. They will warrant a admission to the hospital and try to get this person help. Suicide is so prevalent with adolescence, it has become a normal thing. Why is it that teenagers deaths come in “clusters”. In the article, Clustering of Teenage Suicides After Television News Stories about Suicide.”, Phillips, David P., PhD., and Lundie L. Carstensen M.S dive into depth about the possibilities in why teenagers do that. They analyzed the total of 12,585 suicides among teenagers before and after the news put out stories on other teenage suicides. First, the stories appeared on ABC, CBS, and NBC. Second, “mixed stories”, were those who a person who harmed others and then killed themselves. Third, when suicides occurred within seven days apart, they considered the deaths to be the same stories. The results to their surveys were on average, “teenage suicide rose by 2.91 per store during the period zero to seven days after each story. Although, they did find other explanations. You can’t relate all suicides to news stories, you don’t know what that teenager had going on in their mind. There are many other causes that people commit suicide like seasonal effect, it tends to occur at certain times in the year. For example, the holidays or busy times of the year that can cause stress. Is there a way we can help prevent these tragedies from happening? Yes, there is, Thomas Szasz author of “The Case Against Suicide Prevention” gives more input in this area.
Towards the end of the Enlightenment, around the year 1800, there was a very big change in the perception of suicide. Before that suicide was considered a crime and sin. The person was “punished” if he/she committed suicide. For an example, a man named Jean Baptiste, killed himself in 1765 and his punishment was that he got dragged behind a cart in the middle of town and then got hung upside down from a scaffold for 24 hours. “The idea that anyone who kills himself or herself is crazy reinforces the negative valuation of the act” Nowadays, we see suicide as “mental abnormality or illness”. Thomas Szasz, gives a very interesting point, “If suicide is “bad” because it injures society, then why is it not a crime (as it used to be) and punished accordingly by the state? If suicide is “bad” because it injures the soul or spirit of the “victim,” then why is it not a sin (as it used to be) and punished accordingly by the church?”. We normalize suicide because it is so common, that needs to change. Suicide is never a way out.
The phrase “suicide prevention” is itself a misleading slogan characteristic of our therapeutic age.” Szasz Explains. Suicide is a physical possibility, there can be no suicide prevention If one person is to prevent another person from killing himself or herself, a person cannot have that type of control over a person or their mind. This does not mean that individuals who are suicidal should not be able to seek professional help. Only you can look for the signs of a mentally ill person and try to help them with the step I gave you. Suicide affects the survivors years after it was done. There was a survey done by Sidra J. Goldman-Mellor, Ph.D.; Avshalom Caspi, Ph.D., and HonaLee Harrington, who wrote “A signal for long-term health care social needs”, to test whether suicide attempts in early years cause health and social issues. The overall rate of suicide attempt for young adults is three times higher than people over 30 years old but young people are more likely to survive an attempt. With carrying out a survey on people who have had suicidal attempts, the ages ranged from 18,21,26,32, and 38 years old. All had symptoms of depression and have at one point did self-harm. These following behaviors include: “cutting or stabbing, overdosing, taking poison, attempting to gas oneself, jump from high places, crashing a car, burning, or another method.”
The outcomes of these have predicted cost to health care systems, for an example, being put in a physic ward. Another outcome could be related to crimes, harms to others or removal of a child from parents care. Seeing that, it gives you an outlook on what people go through after suicide and how much it can affect the rest of their lives. Suicide doesn’t only just affect the person who is harming themselves, It affects family members, friends, and the community. In the article, ‘Suicide; A Death by Suicide is Difficult to Cope With.’, the author Louise Sinclair explained that Death from suicide is a very hard pill to swallow due to several reasons. It happens out of nowhere; people don’t have time to mentally process that their loved one is actually gone. Because of that, it is referred to as “unnatural death”. When people experience a loss of a loved one due to suicide there are so many deep emotions. After a suicide, people tend to feel guilty. They think “was it something I did?”. In all reality, most of these people who are family members, friends, etc, didn’t do anything wrong. The person that committed suicide made his or her own decision to do so and must be in a very dark place at the time. (Sinclair, Louise) Some people feel anger towards the individual that took their own life. They think, “how could you be so selfish”. Or even be mad towards others such as doctors, community, relatives. Anger like that must be dealt with or it can destroy a person’s life.
To release that type of anger there are suggestions for activities that may help such as running, hiking, and boxing. Survivors of suicide, tend to “search for meaning”. People need to accept that all questions to life may not be answered and just move on and live your life the best way you can. You can’t go through life drooling on things that you can’t change now, life is so short and frugal. What you can do is just be present. Live every day to your fullest and don’t look back. If you are having problems with mental illnesses or just need a person to talk to, please don’t hold back. If you see signs of suicidal thought in someone, help them. I hope that this paper opened your eyes to the world of mental illnesses and see that they are a real thing that occurs in everyday life. Little by little, people can save lives. If I would have seen the signs of the kid that sat next to me in English class, maybe he would still be alive. Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
- Goldman-Mellor SJ, Caspi A, Harrington H, et al. Suicide Attempt in Young People A Signal for Long-term Health Care and Social Needs. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(2):119–127. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.2803
- Phillips, David P., PhD., and Lundie L. Carstensen M.S. ‘Clustering of Teenage Suicides After Television News Stories about Suicide.’ The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 315, no. 11, 1986, pp. 685-689. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/1879376066?accountid=1169, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJM198609113151106.
- Richard Harrington; Depression, suicide and deliberate self-harm in adolescence, British Medical Bulletin, Volume 57, Issue 1, 1 March 2001, Pages 47–60, https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/57.1.47
- Szasz, Thomas. ‘The Case Against Suicide Prevention.’ American Psychologist, vol. 41, no. 7, 1986,pp.806-812.ProQuest,https://search.proquest.com/docview/614289254?accountid 1169, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.41.7.806.
- Sinclair, Louise. ‘Suicide; A Death by Suicide is Difficult to Cope With.’ News from Indian Country, 07, 1991, pp. 24. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/367691914?accountid=1169.