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Mental Illness Equals Shame…and Shame on Us

suicide, mental illness, mental health, shame

By Patti Urban

Here’s the latest on yet another celebrity suicide.

But we all know that depression is not limited to celebrities. In fact, it can affect everyone everywhere. Sometimes the reasons are disguised behind alcohol or drug abuse. Sometimes they are not. Either way, we, as a society, still do not consider mental illness a disease. Instead we whisper about it. We talk about it. We scream about it. But we still FEEL it’s shameful to say someone has mental illness.


My town, a beautiful suburban place in Connecticut, has one of the highest suicide rates in the state. If you saw this place, you would never even think it. This is your quintessential New England town.

The pressure we put on teens today must be a contributing factor to depression and mental illness. I’ve often said there should be a shuttle bus running from the high school to the local psych hospital. And I’m not joking. If you ask any teen today, they will tell you they believe they need to identify themselves with some sort of label: LGBT, geek, techy-nerd, jock, Asian, white, black, Hispanic, transgender. You get the picture. They cannot stand on their own two feet as just a human being. My daughter once said, if I’m not in a group then what am I? And the pressure to succeed into academia after high school is palpable. It’s actually shameful to not have your kid go to college. The powers that be in charge of education are more concerned with getting good “numbers” so they continue getting funding than they are with the health of the students.

We, the taxpayers, spent over $90 million building a new high school. It’s been open only a few years. In that period of time, the spirit of the former school has ceased to exist. Where once banners and signs adorned the walls, blank spaces are left because “we don’t want to damage the walls”. Morning announcements by students have gone by the wayside and been replaced by more black scrolling screens with written announcements on them. The kids report no one has time to stand there and watch what comes by. The effect of listening to one’s own peers has been replaced by yet more technology.  The school feels more like a prison than a place of education.

As the administration pushes for better grades, higher acceptance rates and the like, no consideration is taken for how our youth are spending more time texting and snap-chatting than actually spending time with one another. Depression in a lot of instances is caused by isolation and exclusion. If we know this, then why is technology taking over the social aspect of our schools?

I fear for our youth as they enter adulthood. So many kids I know have mental illness. And to get your child help is no easy matter. Professionals charge over $200/hour and many do not take insurance. Pharmaceuticals are considered the “norm” in treating mental illness creating a dependency on drugs, which is, by the way, one of the leading causes of suicide.

So how do we fix this?  For starters, make mental illness fully reimbursable under medical insurance.  We need to make treatment available to all.  Second, spend time with your kids and encourage them to spend time with their friends – in person.  And third, speak up at the schools.  Until parents fight back against the ridiculous pressure being put on their kids, it will continue.  After all, someone’s making money from it.


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