News stories on the topic of suicide are never lacking. It seems there is a revolving door of individuals plagued by mental health issues that sadly choose to take their own lives.
This is unfortunate, because these issues can be addressed and mediated with the proper actions.
The ages of individuals committing suicide have decreased in recent decades.
Due to the advent of technology, normalization of negative behaviors can be sought from various outlets both online and in daily life.
Celebrity suicides often can trigger those thinking about the act, rather than offering a signal to receive help.
For far too long, we have momentarily mourned the lost lives, but it is time to take action and stop the growing trend of suicides and mental health stigmatization in our country.
The suicides of Robin Williams, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain covered the pages of news outlets recently. It seems all too commonplace to hear these narratives.
More recently, Olympic snowboarder Ellie Soutter was in the news for ending her life too soon, allegedly as a result of poor mental health and the pressure from high-level competition.
It goes to show that no one is immune to mental illness and daily pressure, no matter how famous they are.
INDOCTRINATING WITH WRONG IDEALS
We must ask ourselves, why do people, children included, feel the need to end their lives so soon? Many stories are similar to Ellie’s: They feel inadequate next to such high standards.
When the rates are as high as they are for teens and young adults to end their lives, we must ask ourselves where the cultural rift lies. These kids feel like they fall short of their goals.
The pressure of these goals becomes too much for them to bear. Unfortunately, falling short of their expectations leads them to one unfortunate outcome.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports the second leading cause of death amongst 10- to 34-year old people is suicide.
Obviously, something is awry with how these individuals feel within society.
The current methods to deal with mental health and suicidal thoughts need to be re-evaluated to better suit younger populations, which are at a growing risk of suicide.
NEW NARRATIVE BASED IN OPENNESS
According to the NIMH, from 1999 through 2016 the total suicide rate increased 28 percent — that is staggering. What happened in those 17 years?
The individuals who are at risk often feel alone in their struggle to gain control over their mental health. The community needs to take responsibility to help those in times of need.
Family members, friends and colleagues cannot stand around if they know something is off with someone close to them.
Conversations normalize the topic of mental health and make it more commonplace to discuss the problems one faces.
Too many people feel their failures are a direct reflection of their character. They feel that falling short of their expectations is the end, when it should be viewed as an opportunity to learn a lesson.
The culture of high expectations, vacant of failure, is guaranteed to make people feel limited. From these perceived limitations, individuals feel they cannot go on after underachievement.
But, there are other perspectives.
CHANGING THE CULTURE
In the year 2018 and beyond, we as a culture become more embedded in a technologically intertwined reality. The internet plays a major role in social interactions.
Younger generations turn towards the internet in times of strife to seek connection. They can fulfill any thought pattern by seeking reassurance in the digital sphere.
The culture needs to shift to an updated and modernized intervention system. We need to use our technological capacity to stop the problem in its tracks.
If someone is searching suicide-related terms online, they need to be fed positive resources to seek help. Hotlines may be too outdated and not proactive enough to change the course of suicidal behavior.
Services need to be implemented to intervene digitally before it is too late. A great example of this is the Crisis Textline, where anyone in distress can text and immediately be connected with a crisis counselor.
It is our obligation as a society and drivers of culture to change the growing trend of suicides. We must implement programs that are aggressively compassionate, and open the conversation on mental health.
We must hold standards that are not too rigid, and allow room for lessons to be learned from failure. The use of digital means is crucial to prevent the lost lives of so many too soon.
We can be the change for a better tomorrow — but it must start today, before it’s too late.
PRAKASH MASAND, M.D., is a psychiatrist and the founder of the Centers of Psychiatric Excellence (www.copepsychiatry.com).