Just Imagine

What if our minds were treated with the same respect as our bodies? Like the “War on Cancer” 50 years ago, just imagine if we would have had a “War on Mental Health Conditions and Suicide” …..

War on Cancer, 1971

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the December 1971 signing of the National Cancer Act, which led to the establishment of the National Cancer Program and significantly expanded the authorities and responsibilities of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Federal funding for cancer research has led to significant advances in cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, and quality of life for patients, leading to a record 16.9 million survivors of cancer alive in the United States today.” https://www.asco.org/advocacy/advocacy-agenda-initiatives/federally-funded-cancer-research

Now, read this again and each time you see the word “Cancer“, replace it with the words “Mental Health Conditions and Suicide”. Cancer research is undoubtedly important. So is research for conditions of our minds – our brains. If we had treated our mental well-being with the same respect as cancer, just imagine the different world we would be living in today.

Those in Positions of Influence

Now, more than ever, we are hearing from people of influence about their mental health struggles. Actors, musicians, athletes, comedians, writers, and on and on. They are standing up for reducing the stigma attached to mental health diseases and suicide. They are sharing their own personal stories. They are founding their own organizations. This is a big step in the right direction, and I applaud them for their bravery.

But … there is a major discussion being left out, an ‘elephant in the room’ so to speak. The missing part? How do we get to the root of the problem so that we can actually ‘prevent’ these conditions (diseases) from causing so much suffering in the first place? How can we treat them or, better yet, stop them before they have the opportunity to advance to dangerous levels?

The answer to this question? Scientific research into our most important organ, the brain. We must find the genetic and biological causes for these diseases at a cellular level. Researchers are already finding specific genes linked to various brain disorders. However, much for research must be done in order to further these studies and to find ‘effective’ treatments and cures. In order to accomplish this, we need far more funding for research. Only in this way, can we really end the suffering.

Don’t get me wrong. We need to continue with the important conversations about safe spaces, stigma free zones, and encouragement for more and more people at risk to seek help. These are important steps in helping people to know that they are not alone and that they should not be ashamed. It will open the eyes of others to be more compassionate instead of being judgmental. And, hopefully, it will encourage our communities to take action in the area of mental health research.

Think about the medical advancements we’ve made over the years for those patients living with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Why aren’t we doing the same for people living with brain diseases? Lack of understanding, shame, and stigma all play a part. We need to continue our fight to end shame and stigma, and we need to advocate for more research to aid in our understanding of the brain.

Our group has an urgent plea for everyone, especially those in positions of influence. Please speak out about the tremendous need for research and the lack of funding for this research.

One more thing. Think of the difference one person of influence is making in the fight to end Parkinson’s disease; Michael J Fox. Who will be our Michael J Fox?

Those Who Have Lost Loved Ones

The following is a post from a member of the Alliance of Hope online support group; a worldwide group of suicide loss survivors. This message is one of the many messages received every day. The number of suicide victims has grown to approximately 48,000 lives per year in the US. There are over 20,000 registered loss survivors who are members of the Alliance of Hope. Far more loss survivors are struggling, and do not reach out to any type of support group due to the stigma that is attached to suicide. Please read carefully, as her voice speaks loudly for so many. We must push for people to listen and push for action.

From a member of the Alliance of Hope support group:

Emphasis should be placed on root causes of suicide. Monies should be going towards upgrading our mental health resources and just as we are required to have a primary care physician we should also be required to have a primary mental heath physician. If our medical doctors, insurance providers and government entities are not equipped to consider our mental health as an equal part of our overall health as physical health, then we will always be in the dark and asking why. Suicide enters all walks of life…..ALL…..not just the homeless, the poor, the traumatized, the addicted. To me those conditions are ALSO symptoms of an unhealthy or untreated or mistreated mental health history not the root causes. My husband completed suicide after a failed attempt. He found a way. I don’t believe he was an anomaly, I believe he had unresolved mental health issues, root causes that he and everyone around him from doctors, family, friends, to social entities and governmental entities, who were absolutely not equipped to recognize and treat his illness. That is why suicide is complex, that is why suicide happens, that is why we are all left thinking somehow it could have been prevented. Until this world wakes up to the realization that focusing and funding healthy mental health practices and research for all peoples, then I am afraid that suicide will continue on its dangerous path of increasing in death status. I am afraid but I also have hope.