Let’s talk about mental health not in whispers, but in shouts

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Today authorities confirmed what has widely been speculated since the death of Attorney General Steve Marshall‘s wife Bridgette — that she in fact committed suicide.

Often times we only talk about suicide in the case of celebrities… Robin Williams, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and others. But the fact is suicide affects so many more of us. More importantly, the underlining cause of suicide, untreated mental illness or mental illness not responsive to medications and treatment, affects nearly all of us in some shape or form. I don’t know a single person not touched by mental illness — either persistent and severe conditions that plague them on and off throughout their lives, or acute in response to major life changes.

We have to do better as a society.

Although I write quite frequently about mental health and the importance of destigmafying it, and properly funding mental health care and community-based programs, and addressing it in our schools, even I feel like I don’t do enough.

I talk openly about my generalized anxiety disorder and the co-occurring depression that can come with it in extreme periods of stress. But I feel like nothing is enough. We have to make this an everyday conversation and rather than whisper about it we should shout. We should say out loud that one can no more control mental illness than they can control asthma, diabetes and other health conditions. What we can control however is how we address it. How we treat it. How we talk about it. Treatment shouldn’t be a dirty secret. Seeking treatment shouldn’t be made to seem like a sign of weakness.

Please join me and let’s all talk publicly about mental health. Let’s talk what’s happening in one another’s lives and in the lives of our loved ones, our neighbors, our colleagues. In loving, caring, and supportive ways.

My heart breaks for Steve Marshall and his daughter Faith (I find myself in tears writing this now) and all I can ask for is in this time we don’t gloss over the opportunity to do better.

I hereby call on state and lawmakers to take on this issue now. It shouldn’t take another mass shooting, or another celebrity suicide or God forbid the tragedy that the Marshall family is enduring right now to bring up the conversation. The time is now. Let’s all go out and do better!

Here are some state and national resources below about mental health:

  • NAMI Alabama: The mission statement/purpose of NAMI Alabama is to provide support, education, and advocacy for persons with mental illnesses, their families, and others whose lives are affected by these brain disorders. This is accomplished by:
    • Educating the people of Alabama about mental illness thereby reducing stigma
    • Providing support for individuals with mental illness to grow and contribute to their community
    • Developing, nurturing and coordinating a statewide network of local affiliates
    • Promoting public policies which expand services and improve treatment for all persons living with a mental illness and supporting research leading to the control and management of mental illness
  • Alabama Department of Mental Health: The state agency tasked with, “Promoting the health and well-being of Alabamians with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders.”
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): The agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.
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