EDITORIAL: Mental illness is stealing lives

More talk needed to help patients seek out mental health diagnosis and treatment

Last week a life was lost. A life that could have been saved. We thought that was worth taking about.

We can only report what we know: emergency crews responded to reports of a despondent person on the Millstream/Trans Canada Highway overpass, just before the morning commuting rush.

To be clear, when we say this life could have been saved, we know emergency crews did everything they could. We mean it in the broader sense, with mental health as a wider societal issue.

As a general rule, we don’t report on suicides that happen in private, unless there are extraordinary circumstances of public interest. But this was a very public death, the leadup to and aftermath of which created a buzz on social media. Different emergency crews were called to respond and will now have to live with what they saw. We thought the public had a right to know.

There has been a lot of talk about the media perpetuating the negative stigmas surrounding mental health. We do not wish to be a part of that problem.

There have been studies done that indicate reporting on suicides can result in more suicides. Other studies refute such evidence. We simply want to shine a light on mental illness, a topic that still seems to not be discussed enough.

Maybe with further discussion about the circumstances behind such tragedies, more sufferers will search for a way out of the fog, despite often feeling they are alone in being surrounded by darkness. We would hope to inspire them to admit they need help and take the first steps in seeking treatment, because mental illness does not heal itself on its own.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental illness directly or indirectly touches every single Canadian, given its effects on sufferers’ family members, friends or colleagues. But of those who believe they have suffered with depression or an anxiety disorder, almost half have never seen a medical professional. And only one out of five children who need mental health services receive them.

To us, those numbers are not acceptable. The stigmas or discrimination attached to mental illness continue to create barriers that prevent more people from receiving much-needed diagnosis and treatment.

We need to talk about this.

More conversation may strike enough of a chord to inspire the change needed to help more hurting people receive the help they need to heal. With more “public interest” in mental illness, we can all help save a life.

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