I remember reading a piece of advice years ago about things we should or shouldn’t mention to the people around us. It advised that unless a person can change something easily, like food in their teeth or their skirt tucked into their undies, then don’t mention it. Weight doesn’t fit into that category and yet people feel it’s their right to comment on a person’s size.
Recently I found myself in conversation with someone who clearly had never had the misfortune of dealing with the public mental health system. The conversation had started about NDIS and the attempted introduction of independent assessments. It was at this point that the topic moved to access and people accessing the NDIS, people who this person believed were stealing resources from those who ‘really’ need it. They believe that those with a mental health condition should access the public mental health system, not steal resources from those who need the NDIS.
Whenever a story about suicide or attempted suicide hits the media there is a mix of reactions. There are the people who don’t care, they see the suicidal as an inconvenience. There are those who have been there and understand the despair behind suicide. Then there are those in between. They don’t really mean to be offensive, but they are misinformed and they can’t possibly keep their comments to themselves.
The comment sections seem to be filled with these in between people. They have possibly read an article about suicide and now believe that those signs are gospel when it comes to a person expressing suicidal thoughts. People who make the news due to their suicide attempts are subjected to the scrutiny of these armchair psychiatrists. I’ve responded to these comments in the past and have been met with disbelief and uproar. ‘I’m only try to help’, is the outcry. Yet they don’t realise or refuse to acknowledge how unhelpful their commentary is.
The most common comment I have noticed is ‘if they were really suicidal they wouldn’t have told anyone’. Contrary to the beliefs these people hold, there is no ‘right’ way to be suicidal or to attempt suicide. Someone reaching out after they have taken action against their lives are no less suicidal because there was something that made them change their minds. A person who admits to making an attempt on their life isn’t any less suicidal.
Another common catch phrase used is that the person is ‘just’ crying for help. Well, yes they are. It’s a dangerous way of asking for help, but that is what they are doing. A friend once said to me that she found it ludicrous that self harm and suicide attempts were written off as nothing more than attention seeking. The term always said in a derisive tone, with undertones of ‘time waster’. It was her belief that if someone used such a dysfunctional way of drawing attention to themselves, then maybe we need to spend some time giving them attention and teaching them positive ways to express themselves.
I often feel uncomfortable when talking about my own suicide attempts because I sought help so soon afterwards. I don’t feel that my experiences are valid because maybe I wasn’t really suicidal at all. I buy into the stigma I fight so hard to help others see past. As usual I am far harsher on myself than on others.
There is no right way to be suicidal. There is no rules for attempting suicide. Someone seeking help doesn’t reduce the validity of those suicidal actions. You can’t ignore someone’s cry for help because you don’t think they are suicidal enough.
At the end of the day, strangers commenting on the validity of a person’s attempt on their life achieves nothing. I wish that suicide attempts were not used as news fodder, click bait headlines that lure the dregs of society to the comment section. I wish that people would think before they type something hurtful about a person who is already in an incredibly vulnerable position. I wish that they could keep their thoughts and their unspoken rules about suicide to themselves.
Linking up with Kylie for IBOT!
I swear if I read one more meme about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) being a made up condition, I will scream. If I see one more post about kids with ADHD just needing a ‘kick up the arse’, I will explode.
ADHD is not just a child being naughty. It is a documented disability. It is not a new condition. In fact it was first added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980. At the risk of alarming anyone, that is nearly 40 years ago.
In April last year, Mr 7 was diagnosed with ADHD – Inattentive Type. In his own words, his brain goes too fast to make sense of the things he needs to do. These issues really became apparent when he started year 1 at school. His teacher knew he could do the work, but Mr 7 just wasn’t completing it. He was getting frustrated that he couldn’t do the things that he too knew that he could do.
Mr 7 has had sleep issues since just before he was 2. He wasn’t bad because he couldn’t sleep. Him not sleeping wasn’t because he was being deliberately disruptive. He just couldn’t wind down mentally after his day. While neurotypical kids would be exhausted after a big day of activities, he was wired and unable to calm his thoughts.
When Mr 7 was diagnosed with ADHD, the pediatrician suggested medication to help with his concentration issues. For me it was a no brainer. I knew for myself, how much the right medication can help when you are struggling mentally. I also knew there was a stigma around medicating for ADHD.
Some people have the belief that medicating ADHD is unnecessarily drugging kids with something that is borderline legal narcotics. They believe that ADHD is just a behavourial issue, not a neurological one. They believe the horror stories of kids turned into zombies and refuse to listen to the success stories.
I went into trying medication with an open mind. I knew that there was the possibility that it wouldn’t work for us, that the side effects could outweigh any benefits. I was prepared to take him off them if they were doing him more harm than good. However I would approach any medication in the same way. It wouldn’t matter if it was for a physical illness or a mental one.
ADHD often manifests itself as naughty behaviour in children because they are frustrated. Imagine if you couldn’t pin down any of your thoughts, no matter how hard you tried. Now imagine that this happens all of the time. Imagine that even though you wanted to do well in class, you wanted to listen, you wanted to do the best but those swirling thoughts were all you had.
Now imagine someone told you that a simple white pill could mean that you could take hold of some of those thoughts. Wouldn’t you want to give it a try? Wouldn’t you want to give it a try for your child?
Medication isn’t the only answer for treating ADHD, and it doesn’t work for everyone. However I would hate to think that I had stopped my son from reaching his potential because of the stigma around a white pill. Seeing how proud of himself he is, because he is achieving things he didn’t think he could is worth it. Seeing him being able to learn about the things he wants to, makes it worth it.
Are you slightly freaking out that 1980 is almost 40 years ago?
Do you know someone with ADHD, do they medicate?
In September last year I received a letter to say that my Disability Support Pension was being reviewed. It was the day that I was dreading and it had come at an already stressful time for my family. I thought that I had missed out on being reviewed, but new measures introduced by the current government meant that I was caught in the net.Receiving this review brought up all of my familiar anxieties about whether or not I deserved the payment. Was I really sick enough? There were people worse off than me surely.
Of course there was also my phone anxiety to deal with. I had to make phone calls to organise letters of support for my review. I felt myself stumbling over the words as I was trying to explain to receptionists what it was that I needed. I fought with my desire to help them to understand exactly what it was they needed to do, and my feelings that I didn’t deserve this kind of help.
When I was reading through the letters that my treatment team had provided I felt sick. In black and white was laid out everything that was wrong with me. I knew that they were talking about my worst days, that these words didn’t define who I was. However that didn’t stop the feelings of self doubt creeping in.
Was I really this sick? Did my mental health really have such a far reaching impact on every part of my life? I watched as the Centrelink worker ticked all of the boxes and saw my disability confirmed. My mental health was considered a disability. I was equal parts relieved to have my feelings validated, and despaired that I was still this *bad*.
Applying for a Disability Support Pension is discussed a lot in mental health groups. People ask for advice when reviews and meetings are scheduled. However there is a common thought that those who a successful are luck to receive the payment. As if luck has anything at all to do with it.
It’s not lucky that my mental health has been determined to be a disability. It’s not lucky that I have to live with the impairment of a mental illness considered bad enough to be labeled disabling. It’s not lucky that I feel the crippling effect of anxiety, the despair of depression or the hot rage of my borderline.
Winning the lotto is lucky. Disability is not. Finding $50 on the footpath is lucky. Mental illness is not. Buying a winning raffle ticket is lucky. Disability is not lucky.