Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Out of the Closet

This blog entry is not a warn and fuzzy one or a rant. It's just something that needs to be said.

The theme song from the film Mash was a song titled: Suicide is Painless.

That is the furthest from the truth. The pain is felt by many: family, close friends and if you are a celebrity, your fans. The recent headlines containing the news of the suicidal loss of Robin Williams brought great attention to the stigma of mental health disorders.

This issue is certainly known in my own family. I am the unofficial historian for several of my ancestral families. While doing the research on my paternal grandparents I discovered that my great grandfather, whom the family never talked about, committed suicide. Not only did he take his own life, but he staged the event so his family would see the results when they returned from a trip to the movies one evening in 1927. No one knows the real reason he did it, other than he was in poor health physically but certainly his mental health was not good either. This event was kept a secret in my family for several generations. The stigma was so strong that when I revealed this in a document I prepared for our family history some members of the family were flabbergasted and told me that I should remove the information suggesting that “this was not something you want to read about in a family history.”

If you visit the Veterans Administration Hospital in Syracuse, NY you will not see the “Behavioral Health Unit” listed on the floor directories. You will see the sixth floor and the eighth floor, but the seventh floor is not listed. It's not like the 13th floor in a hotel that doesn't exist. It's there but just not spoken of publicly. The stigma associated with mental health is still very prominent.

It is time we started talking about mental health issues, openly. If you know someone that is in trouble, seek help, not only for them but for yourself to help you help those in trouble. Like many other issues in our lives once taboo, it's time to bring mental health “out of the closet.”

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