Nov 6, 2019
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
The sound of that very word strikes anger in many of us burdened with mental health challenges. It also, unfortunately, strikes fear in many others and is one of the more significant factors in stopping many with mental health challenges in actually reaching out for help.
I have a love/hate relationship with stigma.
For me, I have a love/hate relationship with stigma. Yes I know that sounds confusing and impossible but let me explain. It was my hatred of stigma that motivated me to make my battles with PTSD and MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) public. Going public with my firefighting crew and co-workers was not an easy thing to do, but doing so allowed me to move forward on my mental health journey.
I have not hidden from anybody the fact that I have been diagnosed with these mental health issues and have gone so far as to educate people as often as I can on the intricate details of PTSD and what it’s like living with PTSD day in and day out. Stomping out the stigma surrounding mental health challenges like PTSD and depression has become somewhat of a passion for me.
I really should have reached out.
During my mental health journey with PTSD and depression, like so many others, there have been many ups and downs. There have been good days and bad days and some very very dark days. It was stigma that stopped me from reaching out and talking about just how dark those dark days actually were.
It was a time when I really should have reached out. On my very darkest of days, one specific day actually, when I was completely overwhelmed, feeling helpless and hopeless and desperate to escape the emotional and mental pain that comes with PTSD and depression, I made a decision, a decision I felt and believed was the only way to escape that pain.
While I had made the decision that suicide was the answer, I had not actually made a plan just yet on how to carry out that decision. It was over the following few days when I expected myself to come up with that plan that I pondered about the impact my decision would have on my family if I carried out what I had decided. That is when I developed my love of the stigma. Yes, it is strange and difficult to say, but it’s true! Stigma surrounding PTSD and depression is bad enough, but the stigma surrounding suicide is so much worse. As a society we are talking more and more openly about PTSD and depression but we are still woefully silent on suicide.
We are still woefully silent on suicide.
True, had I planned and carried out my decision I would be gone. But my family — my wife, my daughter and my son would still be here and forever burdened with the stigma of suicide. While I desperately wanted to rid myself of the overwhelming helpless and hopeless feelings I had at that time, I also loved my family dearly and couldn’t bare the thought of burdening them with the stigma of my suicide.
The stigma of suicide, in my case, actually saved my life. True, some will say that it was my love for my family that saved my life, but the fact is, my love for my family has been constant throughout my entire mental health journey even before those dark days. This is so often the case with many who contemplate or are unfortunately, successful with suicide.
While I hate the stigma surrounding mental health and will do what I can to rid society of it, I also have to acknowledge, regardless of how difficult it is, that it was the very same stigma that actually saved my life, hence my love/hate relationship with mental health stigma.