The recent death of a law student to suicide in Buffalo has rocked the Western New York community. As the stigma surrounding mental health persists, however, now seems like an important time to initiate meaningful conversations and explore what to do when you or someone you love is suffering from mental illness.
People who suffer from mental illness often fall victim to fairly common coping mechanisms that include ambivalence (“I don’t care what’s wrong”), denial (“Nothing is wrong”), ignorance (“Mental illness means you’re weak”), and fear of stigma (“I cannot say anything because others will judge me”). While these responses are understandable, they are not helpful.
If you think something is wrong, talk to your doctor. If you receive a diagnosis, don’t immediately discount it because you don’t want what’s wrong with you to be a mental health disorder. Treatment requires being open to the possibility of a wide range of solutions that might include therapy and medication. And the faster you can come up with and implement a plan, the closer you move toward recovery.
If you can, involve trusted family and friends. Explain what is not working and what you are doing to try and improve the situation. External support systems can give you extra motivation on difficult days.
Ask questions. If there is something that you do not understand or are not comfortable with, it is on you to speak up. Ask your doctor if there are other options. Ask your family and friends to be more involved in your road to recovery and, to the extent that you are able, tell them what you need from them, whether that be time spent in-person or increased phone calls. In this case, you cannot have too many stakeholders in your success.
You are not alone. Call the suicide hotline if you feel isolated 1.800.273.8255. And if someone you love is suffering, now is the time to have a conversation and offer support. Every minute counts.