[Getting on my soapbox]
I consider myself very lucky because I have never lost a family member or a close friend to a tragic circumstance such as an accident, crime, or suicide. So lucky.
But in the past two weeks, two acquaintances have died by such tragic circumstances. My mind reels and my heart aches.
A few days after New Year’s, I learned that my former neighbor committed suicide. We lived on the same floor for years. We were friendly when we ran into each other, yet I don’t think we ever had a full conversation. Typical city living. She was 31 and had just gotten a promotion at work. And she was in so much pain that she took her own life.
Last night, I learned that a student from my alma mater whom I met last year was murdered off campus early in the morning. Details are still sketchy, but it seems that a former student of the college killed his current or ex-girlfriend as well as the student whom I met, Matt Hutchinson. Matt was the leader of a group of students who came to Boston for a week to meet with alumni and explore Boston. He was friendly and smart and eager to learn from the alumni he met.
My alma mater is located in a very small community. The alleged perpetrator comes from a prominent family who has lived there for generations. I am sure that every single community member is grieving.
When I asked myself why these events occurred or what could have prevented such tragedies, one of my answers was “get rid of the stigma around mental health.”
Now I know that many depressed people completely mask their pain and that some people “just snap” out of the blue and murder others.
But in how many of these cases are there “warning signs” that are ignored?
Did this young woman tell anyone how she was feeling? Did the person on the receiving end not take her seriously? Did anyone notice a change in her behavior or mood?
Did this young man who killed two people and then himself have a history of violence? Did anyone notice his possible poor impulse control/short temper/apathy, etc.?
How can we start treating mental illness like physical illness?
We have to destroy the stigma surrounding mental illness. We have to help our loved ones who are struggling.
You can be stigma free by taking a pledge to learn more about mental health.
If you need resources for yourself or loved ones, they are out there:
We need to start TALKING about mental illness.