How To Support Mental Health
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Health and Wellness

I Don't Need Your Suicide Hotline Tweet, I Need Better Care For Mental Health

If all you can do after the suicide of a celebrity is retweet a hotline number, you aren't doing enough.

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The sudden passing of anyone who has contributed something beautiful and meaningful to the world is always unnerving, disorienting, and painful. In the wake of tragedies like the recent suicides of Swedish DJ Avicii, fashion designer Kate Spade, and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, social media never ceases to quickly erupt into a hub for suicide-prevention hotline numbers, pleas for compassion towards others, and messages of hope reminding everyone that "no matter what, you're not alone."

There's a certain kind of beauty in seeing the world band together to, even just for a moment, step outside themselves and honor the life of someone else. But, without fail, it is always a tragedy that brings these masses of people together. It's just another Tuesday of scrolling through tweets about "The Office" or someone's ex until tragedy strikes, and then suddenly everyone is telling you to check on your loved ones or pass along information for suicide-prevention resources.

Suicide is always unsettling, but so is the routine with which society reacts to it. Don't get me wrong, these hotlines and resources are necessary and they have their place — they literally save lives. The problem is that they aren't coming to us — to vulnerable people with mental illnesses — at the right time. They're arriving far, far too late because society's conversation about mental illness and mental health care is too far behind.

Maybe in a world where we talk about mental health the way we talk about the weather, a simple retweet of a suicide hotline will be enough to stop these tragedies from happening. But in the world we live in, a retweet is not enough. If all you can do to advocate for mental health is retweet a number for a hotline, you're not doing enough, because I could just as easily Google the same thing. We know those resources are out there, what we need right now is a world that actually gives a damn about mental health, not just when a public figure dies from suicide, but all the time.

We cannot keep waiting until after the worst has happened to care about mental health. We need a world that will stand by those with mental illnesses, even when it isn't convenient — even in our lowest, scariest, and ugliest moments. We need to think about what it means that people who are on top of the world can still feel so much darkness that it drives them to end their lives. We need to restructure our healthcare system so that people have access to proper mental health care, not just hotlines. We can't achieve that if the only time people care about mental illness is after it has proven fatal.

I don't mean to come across as cynical or apathetic, but the reality is that no matter how many times you tell someone that they're not alone and throw resources in their face to prove it, they're still going to feel alone because that's how mental illness operates.

It doesn't matter how many people are telling you to have hope. If my brain is telling me to be hopeless, that voice will always drown out the voices of people telling me differently. I need more than a "retweet this if you support people with mental illness." I need active support — access to therapy and medication, a university and a workplace that legitimizes and prioritizes mental health, friends and family who know what the signs are when I'm spiraling into a depressive episode.

Maybe my mental health isn't anyone's business but my own, but mental health something that impacts everyone and yet I feel like I'm committing a sin anytime I want to talk about it. The only time I'm allowed to bring up my mental illness is after it makes news headlines. If we want to make real change happen, we can't be afraid to have tough and vulnerable conversations. We need to be constant, active allies to people with mental illness. Listen to us, defend us, and validate us. Don't tell us we're overreacting, or that it's just a phase, or that "it will get better." Nothing will get better until we start fighting for mental health 365 days a year.

Do more to be an ally. Ask someone about their day, send a self-care kit to a friend, offer to cover a co-worker's shift so they can have a mental health day, drive a friend to their therapy appointment.

Do more to normalize conversations about mental health so that no one has to suffer alone in silence.

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