An Uncomfortable Conversation That Must Be Discussed

Well…I’m back to doing some kind of writing, after months of not doing much. It’s a new year with new goals, and I’m trying to stick to them.

For those who have been paying attention, I haven’t had an article posted on bphope.com since December. I actually wrote on that talked about my hiatus that I was going to take from the site that I thought would be posted last month. Ironically, I didn’t need to. There have been changes with their personnel, so none of the other writers had a new article posted since December.

While I’m on the subject of mental health, I’ve realized that aside from my own post on here about my struggles a couple of months ago, I haven’t really talked as much about the subject in general. But some things that happened over the last few days made me want to open a discussion about things. It’s not exactly the most uncomfortable subject to talk about (hence the featured photo and title), but a conversation that I feel must be talked about until it finally starts sinking in with some people and institutions.

Everyone by now probably knows about the sudden death of Kristoff St. John. While I never watched any of the soap operas, I know that he was a big deal actor. To be clear, I haven’t heard anything saying that his death was the result of a suicide, so I don’t want to put any assumption out there, nor making any assumption on my own. I’m also not in the place to make my own determinations, especially so soon, about what happened that killed him; I’m a writer, not a doctor, a forensic expert, or a detective. I hear and read the news articles that you hear or read.

But from my understanding, he dealt with his own mental health issues, and very understandably so. He lost his son to suicide some years ago, and that without a doubt would have a profound effect on anyone, especially a parent.

Prior to that, over the weekend, I read about a pastor of a megachurch in California; Jim Howard; taking his own life. He also fought a long, private battle with mental illness that eventually won. It’s horrible, it’s sad, and my heart goes out to his family, friends, and his church community.

In case you haven’t figured it out, mental illness, whether acute or chronic, is real; no matter your background. If it can take down a leader of a community, then what makes you think you’re immune or that it’s not serious? People are ashamed to talk about their struggles and even more ashamed to seek help, for various reasons. Believe me, I know. To this day, I still feel somewhat embarrassed to talk about my own disorders. In fact, when certain people ask me how I’m doing with them, I sometimes cringe and get defensive.

That doesn’t mean that they’re not asking out of concern. It’s a reflection of my own feelings about how actually hearing anyone even looking at me or using my name in the same sentence with mental health. But it’s important to talk about it, no matter how reserve I am about it.

Sometimes, when I find out people made that final choice and took action, I wonder what were they thinking in those final minutes. I wonder that because I remember during the times I was so close to just ending it all, I first thought about how I wanted the pain to end, then my family and friends, then thinking about how I wouldn’t be a problem anymore, then feeling content with the decision I made. But by the grace of God, I never went through with it. I was close to the edge more times than I would admit to.

It is very important that we take care of our own mental health, whether we have a diagnosed disorder or just for general care. It’s important that we build a support system. It’s important that we take mental timeouts when things get too tough. It’s important that we have at least one person to talk to, who will listen with no judgments, no criticizing, a just being an open ear.

It’s great that we’re finally starting to talk about this subject, which was seen almost as taboo just a few years ago, but more needs to be done. With the conversations needs to be clear and definitive action. Some can be taken with a matter of communities setting up the right programs; when I say communities, I’m talking about from all levels, including families, churches and individual neighborhoods. Some will take a major generational shift in our overall attitudes. But the foundations for that generational shift into understanding mental health and issues associated with it needs to start now. Our lives literally depend on it.

If you’re having thoughts of suicide, please reach out to someone. If you’re that someone that the person reaches to, don’t criticize him/her for feeling this way, in an attempt to guilt the person out of it. Talk to them and get them to help immediately.

Until next time…

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