No more stigma

Mari-Len De Guzman
April 24, 2017
Written by
There is a new series on Netflix that is proving to be one of its most watched shows to date: "13 Reasons Why." It’s about a teenage girl who, before committing suicide, created a cassette tape recording pouring her heart out and calling out 13 people who she claims are the reasons why she decided to end her life.

This 13-part series is about all the cruel things teenagers may be facing in a world that is governed by popularity and social hierarchy, which may sound familiar to those of us who went through the same kinds of drama in high school.

The reality is that today’s teenagers may be facing the same difficulties as we did, but the consequences for them can be much worse thanks to social media. The bullies remain, but their platform has gone beyond the four walls of the school to the bigger and wider world of the Internet. The victims are also now subjected to a bigger, wider and more unforgiving audience.

In Canada, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24 years old. The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that suicide accounts for 24 per cent of all deaths among 15 to 24 year-olds.

Suicide has been linked to mental illness, which makes it even more important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms, before it’s too late. Not all people contemplating suicide have outward signs of a struggling, lonely person, as was portrayed by the main character in "13 Reasons Why." No one knew what she was planning to do – not her friends, not her teachers, not even her own parents.

More than 20 years ago, my cousin committed suicide. The night she took her life, I walked by her house on my way home. I saw her lamplight was on, and I thought about stopping by, as I usually did, for a drink or a quick chat. But I continued walking, thinking it was late and I wanted to get home. A few hours later we got the terrible call. I wished I had stopped by her house earlier that night; maybe things would have turned out differently. Just maybe. My cousin, as in many suicide cases, never gave any indication that she was depressed or sad or in pain.

For the untrained person, maybe it is hard to recognize the signs and symptoms of someone having suicidal thoughts or is depressed – or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s just a matter of being there for them and showing we care. This mental health month is a reminder that this world is too big for people to be left to face their struggles alone. Whether it’s at home, in our community or at our workplace, let's remember to stop and listen. #NoMoreStigma





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