If ever there was a year to forget, this would be the one.
Nevermind the personal struggles, health challenges and the other hurdles I’ve had to leap over, crawl under and run through, there is one thing that continues to put my brain in a constant state of confusion and sadness.
Death of people I know, but not for the reason it should ever happen for.
At least four people I had grown up with, knew through family or had met along the many journeys I’ve made have all decided this world no longer needed them and took their own life.
Now while I had not seen or heard from these individuals in many years, in some cases decades, but nonetheless the effect on me was profound.
As well it should be.
No one should have to feel they have no one to come to, no other options, nothing left on this Earth that is worth sticking around for.
Unfortunately though, those thoughts are all too frequent in far too many people these days.
And while it’s enormously tragic, the real tragedy is that the systems designed to provide the help, support and programs these individuals need are either over-subscribed, under-funded, constrained by lack of everything or non-existent.
What this has led to is people, literally, falling through the cracks.
From those suffering from mental illnesses having to attempt to deal with their issues on their own to those that wind up homeless because they can’t deal with it to the ones that take themselves — and extremely tragically, sometimes others — down for the count, the promises to improve the system and make the lives of those in need better come to the forefront.
However, in spite of all that, the deaths continue to mount and the outcry for change has become a constant scream.
That word is something a lot of people struggle to say and sometimes can’t even come to grips with the thought behind the word.
Yet, it is a fact that hundreds of people will be touched by the consequences of that word every week and many others will worry the stigma behind it will attach itself to them, following them wherever they go, people staring and judging — yet, it’s all an illusion they deal with inside, by themselves.
And, all because the system has let them down because it isn’t doing what it’s supposed to.
Yes, there are those among the population that prefer not to accept any assistance, that choose to walk that path, but that doesn’t mean us as a society should let them simply go that direction without at least making the attempt to help.
However, because of how the present mental health system has its professionals respond, they can’t even provide the bare necessities to those that ask and want the needed help unless those people are in immediate danger.
So, what is the solution?
The fairly obvious answer is that more money needs to be put into front line services, find more staff so that caseloads are more manageable and make attempts to have services more attainable and readily available, not simply for those that live in major urban centres or because it’s a medical emergency.
What isn’t so obvious, and harder for a lot of people to digest, is that eliminating the stigmatism mental illness — and post-traumatic stress disorder — still has. That means talking about it to our youngest students, educating everyone on the signs to look for, letting everyone know you can be approached at any time for a listening ear and by not giving in to the old, typical stereotype of buck up, stay strong, be a man (or woman) or suck it up.
For the tragedies to stop, it starts with one person — you.
But that is…just an observation.