COLUMN: ‘You are not alone, speak up to get help’

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With the Netflix original show ‘13 Reasons Why’ trending at the moment, I feel it is an important time to discuss mental health and suicide awareness. 
The controversial topic is portrayed honestly throughout the show, and I feel that the enigmatic series has sparked a much-needed discussion about depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, especially within teenagers, as suicide is the second highest killer within adolescents.

As a teenager myself, I find the most disheartening aspect of some people’s attitudes toward suicide and mental illness is dismissal, and labelling the act of suicide and self-harm as simply ‘stupid’. Some people refuse to acknowledge the existence of these ‘soft illnesses’, as they aren’t measurable and have no visible symptoms. For many older generations, these mental illnesses seem to have emerged from nowhere, causing these people to believe that anxiety is simply being nervous, and that depression is just a form of sadness with no medical complication.

Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but if you share these views, please consider that voicing them can be hurtful and offensive for someone who suffers from these mental illnesses, and it can be important to accept and empathise with what people have to say.

Another important thing to consider is suicide prevention techniques.

It can be so easy to say optimistic phrases such as ‘tomorrow’s a new day’, and ‘cheer up’ to someone who seems upset or depressed. But often these sayings are not helpful or beneficial, and they may feel belittled and even more alone. A good thing to do when helping someone through mental illness is to assist them in getting professional help, and to listen to their thoughts and feelings, making them aware that they are not alone.

Similarly, small things you mindlessly do on a daily basis can affect someone who is suffering from depression or considering suicide. Sometimes it is very easy to underestimate the effect your actions can have on someone else’s day, positively and negatively.

It’s important to hold back insults and avoid confrontation. Even a simple gesture such as a smile or holding open a door for somebody can improve their mood and outlook.

An open attitude and the ability to discuss this uncomfortable, taboo topic could help them to comfort a friend or other relative who is affected by these issues. But this open-mindedness needs to start somewhere, so why not with you?