Lady Gaga and Dr. Tedros Adhanom as published in The Guardian.
By the time you finish reading this, at least six people will have killed themselves around the world.
Those six are a tiny fraction of the 800,000 people who will kill themselves this year – more than the population of Washington DC, Oslo or Cape Town. Sometimes they are famous names such as Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade that make headlines, but they are all sons or daughters, friends or colleagues, valued members of families and communities.
Suicide is the most extreme and visible symptom of the larger mental health emergency we are so far failing to adequately address. Stigma, fear and lack of understanding compound the suffering of those affected and prevent the bold action that is so desperately needed and so long overdue.
One in four of us will have to deal with a mental health condition at some point in our lives, and if we’re not directly affected, someone we care for is likely to be. Our young people are particularly vulnerable, with suicide being the second leading cause of death globally among 15-29-year-olds and half of all mental illness beginning by the age of 14.
Yet despite the universality of the issue, we struggle to talk about it openly or to offer adequate care or resources. Within families and communities, we often remain silenced by a shame that tells us that those with mental illness are somehow less worthy or at fault for their own suffering.
Instead of treating those facing mental health conditions with the compassion we would offer to someone with a physical injury or illness, we ostracize, blame and condemn. In too many places support services are non-existent and those with treatable conditions are criminalized – literally chained up in inhumane conditions, cut off from the rest of society without hope.
Lady Gaga and Dr. Tedros Adhanom
(Article cover photo of Lady Gaga is a Netflix ‘Gaga: Five Foot Two’ publicity photo)
US: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
UK: 116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Australia: crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14
International suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org