Just watching the entire furore over the Oscar Pistorius case verdict today sheds a sad spotlight over what society considers important. There has been little focus on the sad tragedy of the death of Reeva Steenkamp due to the ‘obvious celebrity/famous person’ connection of the alleged culprit.
There was also another important day yesterday: the World Suicide Day. The thing is….not many people noticed it.
Where was the fuss? Where was the commotion? Where was the media fanfare over such an important day? To many people scattered across the globe, yesterday was a day like any other. You wake up, go to work or school, improve relationships, make new friends and associates, and squeeze in a movie or series later on in the night. There was little to no mention of a day that highlights not just the unnecessary loss of a life, but also the issues of mental health, depression and personally overwhelming circumstances in life. Here was an opportunity to bring to the fore the problems that lead people to feel that taking their lives is more favourable than living. Alas, not many cared.
Is it because people don’t want to talk about suicide?
The tragic passing of actor and comedian, Robin Williams, brought a new focus on issues to do with suicide. There was an outpouring of messages of sadness at his unexpected death. The world learnt of the mental health problems that the late actor was facing and his struggles with depression. There was also an inquiry into the kinds of drugs that were prescribed to him by the doctors as the medication was said to cause ‘suicidal thoughts’. Yet, the world now seems to have moved on quickly from such a sad moment to focus on other issues.
The reality is that the only people who focus on issues of mental health, depression and suicide are either medical professionals, people suffering from mental health issues and the people close to those suffering from mental health issues. The rest of the world is silent on the matter.
Even now as the Oscar Pistorius case continues, only a few people have mentioned the potential of him considering suicide if he is convicted. His mental health issues have been reported on before, but the spotlight is now focusing on a ‘celebrity’ charged with murder.
Suicide is a stigma. People don’t want to talk about it. Regardless of these views, it is time to wake up to the reality that there are people who are suffering silently every day and they are looking for a way out. It’s not about being a coward. There is a lot more that goes on in the minds of those who eventually turn to suicide. Even people who seem to have a perfect life with lots of money, friends, children, and praise at work, commit suicide. It all starts in the mind. This is why mental health awareness should be an integral focus for our society as we move on into the future.
The world is constantly changing around us and there are people going through problems and circumstances that promote a negative outlook on life. Mental health issues don’t just arise out of thin air. Instead, they develop over time. The key, then, is for people to focus more on others’ well-being and try to reach out to those close to them in order to provide a platform through which someone can confront their mental demons.
The World Suicide Day is a day for all of us to try to change the world by changing the perception people have over mental health, depression and suicide. There are people contemplating suicide right now who desperately need someone to speak a word that would pull them out of their despair. So the next time I tell you, “Let’s talk about suicide”, don’t tell me, “Don’t mention it!”.