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Being Black-listed: An Overview of How Depression and Suicide Are Socially Not Discussed

Updated on August 20, 2014
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Jamal is a graduate from Northeastern Seminary but writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.

Opening Old Wounds

The death of Robin Williams by suicide has shined new light on the stigma attached to it. Many people close to the comedian/actor were not even aware that he was dealing with those feelings, never mind the latter revelation by his wife that he had Parkinson’s disease. Since then, many people have opened up that many reasons why people with suicidal tendencies or deep depression problems are often stigmatized by society at large; often times unintentionally.

For me, this strikes close to home because I at one time struggled with suicidal thoughts as well, and had even tried once. Needless to say it didn’t work out that way, but no one knew about until years later when I mentioned it during a therapy session. Many of us make suicide out to be a black and white issue. Sure they know you’re depressed, maybe even really depressed, but somehow the knowledge that there are people who love them and talking to other people about it is suppose to make it easier to deal with. Well, not always, not a lot.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization did this survey in August 2013 of why vets don't seek help
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization did this survey in August 2013 of why vets don't seek help

Black-Listed

We red-letter suicide and its close cousins, depression and mental illness, for largely two reasons. First is that the issues and feelings that are driving those ‘voices in our heads’ are not socially acceptable. We don’t talk about them. With our iphones, digital TV, internet and freedoms, life should be a open banquet table where it’s all you can eat. Whatever makes you happy. Talking about negative issues however is depressing, it takes away that carefree expectation of wanting to be happy, and leaves us feeling vulnerable and not knowing how to handle it.

Many people therefore who do confess about their internal struggles, are told that they are weak for not simply ‘choosing’ to be positive. More than that, they can be treated not as everyday people who have struggles and may want help, but as psyche ward cases waiting to happen. It’s almost as if the issues of suicide, mental illness, and depression are seen as some sort of level one case of insanity. And people with ‘those kind of issues’ you stay away from. No one wants to be shamed.

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It’s a Sin

The second reason there’s a stigma with suicide stems from western religious values of Judaism and Christianity. Now many people may deny this reason because they argue, ‘they’re not religious’. That maybe so, but neither does that change the fact that we were still raised in that type of environment, and some of those value stuck. Judeo-Christianity places a high value on the life of a person, so much so that suicide is regarded as both a murder and a sin. Catholic churches were known to deny a suicide victim last rights and even burial in a Christian cemetery because of this.

What these labels accomplish is leaving the struggling person feeling like it’s their fault, no matter what they do. They begin feeling more trapped than they already were before, with the kind words from others gets twisted into something condescending in the mind of the listener.

It's often assumed that people who are suicidal want to die, but this is not always the case.
It's often assumed that people who are suicidal want to die, but this is not always the case.

“Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When "I" is replaced by "We", illness becomes wellness.” - Shannon L. Alder

What’s Your Poison?

People kill themselves for a variety of reasons. It’s not always about a person being depressed and wanting to escape. Many people who suffer with this though do feel like they are trapped in their own personal hell, with their hands pressed up against the glass ceiling trying to break out, but never able to. Other times though it can be about revenge; a jealous lover or ex wants to make their former flame suffer for breaking up with them and the anger rises to a point where it overwhelms all reason. So to hurt them the maximum amount, they write a suicide note blaming them, and then kill themselves, leaving their former lover with the guilt of having ‘played a part’ in the suicide and never being able to reconcile it because the other person is now dead. A person may kill themselves not because they want to end their lives, but because the family needs money, but their only access to it is if the life insurance owner dies. These are just three of many reasons that motivate a person ending their life.

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Everybody Has Issues

These problems do not have a one-pill-cure all solution. However, at the very least, everyday people opening up about the pressures they face to maintain the mirage of happiness without judgment goes a long way. We all have problems that weigh heavily on us, maybe even ones that are starting to drive us to a point of desperation. Removing our negative views of people struggling with these problems is a first and giant step.

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