This week marks National Suicide Prevention Week, and the month of September recognizes Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. I am choosing to share a repost from my Self Care and Fitness Education Blog (8/16/2014) which discussed this very subject.

Today also commemorates the 18th anniversary of 9/11. For those who remember, it was one of the most stressful times in our Nation’s history. To this day, many are still struggling with the aftermath, and could use both professional assistance and peer support. I will leave you with resources that can heighten your awareness to the subject of mental health and suicide. Take care, be well, and reflect on what this day means to you:

In this week’s blog post, I chose to use the recent death of Robin Williams as a platform for a call to action. This will be my opinion only that has been formed by over 22 years spent (as an observer of life) in Emergency Medical Services. You are free to agree or disagree with my commentary, but I feel that this is a golden opportunity for us all to have a national conversation about behavioral health.  Not just for a few weeks after his death, but for all time.

       As the days passed, we learned that Mr. Williams died from an apparent suicide (the medical examiner’s official cause of death has not been released yet).  We were also informed by the mainstream media that he struggled for many years with both depression and addiction for which he sought help several times.   It is not for us to judge why, or even seek the exact reason, Mr. Williams took his own life.  In the end, only he truly knows that.  Maybe he left a note, and maybe he didn’t.  What is more important is that a high profile person has brought both the topics of suicide and depression into the national spotlight once again.

        Every year Americans spend probably into the billions on preventative maintenance for our homes and cars.  We even spend enormous amounts of money to maintain our body and spirit in the form of gym memberships, yoga classes, swimming, running, and organized sports.  Moreover, we have started to take up green living as a way to improve the position of our overall health.  However, I feel we invest very little in the preventative maintenance of our own behavioral health before it becomes a serious issue.  Let me show you what I mean.

     Let’s say for instance that you are at your place of employment and a co-worker starts to complain of sudden onset chest pain and difficulty breathing.  He/she appears very sweaty, pale, and cool to the touch.  I am pretty sure that most people would get involved and call 911 for an ambulance in order to get this person help very quickly.  Now take that same person, a normally upbeat and productive worker, and put them in a different set of circumstances.  Over several weeks you notice that this person becomes socially withdrawn, angry at life, and his or her work performance has started to slip.  How many people can honestly say that they would feel comfortable approaching this person to ask them what is wrong.  Would we be more apt to shy away out of fear that this person would lash out or tell us to mind our own business?  I leave that up to you to decide how you would work through this scenario.

     All too often when it comes to behavioral health or imbalances of the mind, the subject gets swept under the rug or locked behind closed doors.  This attitude is something that is very prevalent in the fire service.  To seek help in this arena is seen as a sign of weakness. Therefore, many firefighters would rather suffer in silence than to admit they need help.  I find this to be also true for our society as a whole.  If you struggle with a mood disorder such as depression or even if you feel mentally out of sorts,  I implore you to seek out a behavioral health specialist who is qualified to guide you on the road to mental wellbeing. Being that we live in a high stress society, it would not hurt to do a spring cleaning of the mind every once in awhile. Also, if you know someone who seems to be struggling with daily life, take the chance and say something.  They will thank you for it later.

     Robin Williams left us with a tremendous body of work as both an actor and a comedian. His God given talent to entertain was a true gift.  He was also very public about his battle with addiction and depression.  His life, and death, can be the greatest lesson (gift) to us all.  I offer my sincerest condolences to his family and hope that one day they will help to inspire a dialogue about mental wellbeing and self care strategies to that end.  This can be his greatest legacy that will last for the ages.  Let us all learn from this somber moment in our history as well as challenge the national conversation.  We are placed on this earth for only a moment and it should be our mission to leave it a little better off than we found it.  Life is one big lesson in learning, so do just that.

Resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/get-involved/awareness-events/suicide-prevention-awareness-month