Menstuff® has information on the stigma surrounding suicidality.

Newburg Oregon Girl Got A Clever Tattoo To Get The Conversation Going About Depression
I know what will wipe out mental health stigma
Hope, help for teens with mental illness
Between the Lines: Suicide’s Shameful Stigma
Costs of Stereotypes
What is the Christian view of suicide?

Suicide: How my failed attempts became my biggest success

Newburg Oregon Girl Got A Clever Tattoo To Get The Conversation Going About Depression

Bekah Miles, a 20-year-old student at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, has made a big splash by helping to bring attention to a pressing mental health issue.

Miles was diagnosed with depression last year, and she told BuzzFeed that she sought help after hearing her college professor’s story of dealing with depression.

In a class I had with her, she opened up about her own struggles that she has faced with her own mental illness.

Hearing her words made me realize that even though it can seem like you are the happiest, most intelligent, or down-to-earth human being, everyone has struggles.

I sought her out not long after. She helped me find the right help that I needed.

After getting help herself, Miles decided she wanted to do something to get a conversation started about the disorder.

Last week, she got a tattoo that at first appears to read “I’m fine.” But when you look at it from her perspective from above, it reads “Save me.” The picture was accompanied by some of her thoughts on depression.

The post reads in part:

Last year, I was diagnosed with depression. And in all honesty, I believe it was a problem for quite a while before that, but I think it just got worse to the point of hardly functioning.

So today, I got this tattoo. I feel that my leg was the best place for the meaning behind it. When everyone else sees it, they see “I’m fine,” but from my viewpoint, it reads “save me.” To me, it means that others see this person that seems okay, but, in reality, is not okay at all. It reminds me that people who may appear happy, may be at battle with themselves.

It ends with a quote attributed to Robin Williams:

I think that saddest people always ty their hardest to make people happy because they know what it's like to feel absolutely worthless and they don't want anyone else to feel like that. - Robin Williams

Since sharing the picture on Facebook last Sunday, the post went viral with over 290,000 likes and around 250,000 shares at the time of this writing. The comments — roughly 27,000 of them — have been overwhelmingly positive.

Since sharing the picture on Facebook last Sunday, the post went viral with over 290,000 likes and around 250,000 shares at the time of this writing. The comments — roughly 27,000 of them — have been overwhelmingly positive.

Miles has since followed up with another post saying she’s glad to get the message out there, and hopes the conversation will continue.

She went on to tell BuzzFeed about her ultimate goal. “The stigma needs to end. And I know that this post won’t end it, but I sure hope and want to be a part of the fight against it.”

If you or someone you know has depression, the National Network of Depression Centers can be a good resource for help.

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I know what will wipe out mental health stigma

More people are speaking out–Suicide survivors, suicide loss survivors, overdose survivors, those who suffer with mental illness.

Parents are motivated to seek help and are risking the fallout of reaching out because the risk of losing their child outweighs their fear of living with shame.

Then there is the awareness, rising suicide rates, media coverage and the opiate epidemic which has cut across all racial and socioeconomic groups including politicians.

All of this works in tandem together to raise awareness and educate millions.

But that’s just part of it. It’s not the secret sauce

The one thing that has been the most influential is you. Yes, you are the secret sauce.

You will be the ones wiping out stigma. How?

I can sit here and write all day but I’m a minority in this game. With no audience, no one to help me carry the message, it would die right here collecting server dust.

Those of us who have lost a loved one or are currently struggling with mental illness can’t do it alone.

It’s our friends who run along beside us, holding us up and encouraging us in our darkest hour that are making a difference. It’s a group effort and you are our cheerleaders–the catalyst that is sparking change.

It’s an effort of love and compassion which restores my faith in humanity

You have decided to stand up for something. You’ve decided that you are not ashamed to post any of this on your social media profiles. You have guts.

For that I am grateful. Because we are starting to see real conversation and real change. People everywhere are speaking out and you are amplifying that message and emphasizing the importance of family because you’ve seen the results of doing nothing and staying silent.

People not supporting depression or addiction as an illness have already started to look old, stodgy, uninformed and close minded. I believe in less than two years, it will be ‘uncool’ to talk about mental illness or addiction as moral failings.

If there is one thing people don’t like, they don’t like to look bad. Or stupid. That alone will incentivize people to change their minds.

Now you have the secret. It’s you, the carriers of these messages.

Hope, help for teens with mental illness

About 20% of teens have a mental health condition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports.

90% of teens who commit suicide had underlying mental illness, according to NAMI.

About half of all instances of mental illness begin by age 14, according to NAMI.

Graham Moore, the Academy Award winner for Best Adapted Screenplay, said in his acceptance speech Sunday that he contemplated suicide at age 16.

He urged kids who feel weird, different, or like they don't belong to stick it out: "Stay weird, stay different," he said, Oscar in hand. "And then when it's your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along."

It was a moment of national awareness for teen suicide, the third-leading cause of death among youths ages 10-24. Moore later told reporters he had depression as a teen.

Just a couple days before the Academy Awards, a 9-year-old Detroit boy hanged himself after getting into an argument with his family. Three years ago, there were headlines about a 7-year-old Detroit boy who killed himself after being bullied.

Suicide is most common among people with mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 90% of youths who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.

To address that, and to offer help to kids who are suffering and their families, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and a coalition of other organizations plans to host a conference at 1 p.m. Sunday about teen mental health at West Bloomfield High School.

Wren Beaulieu-Hack of West Bloomfield is among the organizers of the conference. She said she will never forget the agony of watching her 6-year-old daughter fight through mood swings, bouts of extreme sadness, and explosive tantrums.

Wren Beaulieu-Hack of West Bloomfield is chairwoman

Wren Beaulieu-Hack of West Bloomfield is chairwoman of the youth professional council of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. (Photo: Joel Q. Hack)

"By the time she was 9 or 10 years old, she was saying, 'Mommy, I want to die. I don't know why, I just want to die,' " she said. "This is a 9-year-old child. This isn't a child who's aware of anything other than an overwhelming desire.

"When your child says, 'I just want to die, Mommy,' you can't say, 'Let's go get a lollipop and it'll be all better, honey."

Beaulieu-Hack's little girl, Maggie, eventually was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but was terrified to tell anyone; she worried that she'd be shunned at school or treated differently. She tried to hide her illness, but by the time she came home at the end of the school day, she would practically explode with pent-up emotion, Beaulieu-Hack said.

"She was in her junior year in high school before she told a single friend," she said. "The reality is our kids are hiding, and they shouldn't have to. And nor should the families have to hide. The parents are hiding."

Beaulieu-Hack, chairwoman of the youth professional council of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, is trying to ensure that no one needs to hide anymore. She wants those who are struggling and dealing with the shame of a mental health condition — which affect 20% of teens, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness — to know there is help. There are people who understand.

Among those who do is Ross Szabo, CEO of the Human Power Project and author of "Behind Happy Faces: Talking about Mental Health and Teen Mental Illness." He was diagnosed at age 16 with bipolar disorder, and plans to speak at the conference.

Ross Szabo, CEO of the Human Power Project and author of “Behind Happy Faces: Talking about Mental Health and Teen Mental Illness" is to speak at a conference at West Bloomfield High School March 1. (Photo: Ben Zeiber)

"We treat mental health conferences like conferences for other people," he told the Free Press in a phone interview last week. "When what we're seeing more and more now is that mental health can affect so many different aspects of your life. I wish it was possible to treat mental health conferences like they're conferences for all people. They're really for everybody."

Szabo developed a mental health curriculum for schools and colleges that teaches coping mechanisms, gives students a vocabulary to describe how they're feeling and helps them know what to do if a friend needs help.

"I think the most important thing is to make mental health approachable," he said. "We need to remove the stigma, let students know they can talk about whatever they're going through, giving them a vocabulary so when they're talking about what they're going through they can talk about it with the right words."

Those who attend the conference will get information, as well as resources that can help families as they work to address mental health issues. Those resources are vital as services and medications often are not covered by health insurance.

"My daughter has never been covered by insurance — prescriptions or the care or hospitalization," Beaulieu-Hack said. "There were months I was spending $800 for prescriptions just for her. An awareness many people don't have is the immense cost."

Beyond that, Szabo says, is the emotional toll.

"We don't talk about emotions, period," Szabo said. "We don't talk about emotional situations, period, and we don't think mental illnesses are treatable. We create an environment where someone does feel a lot of shame and embarrassment, and they may feel weak for not being able to control what they're going through.

"The most important thing I try to do is normalize the concept of mental heath, rather than isolating mental illness. If you're a parent or in any aspect of life, it's important to come to something like this. Mental health affects everyone, no matter what age they are. The more we try to educate about it, the better it's going to make people's lives."

Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.

A community conference on teen mental health, called "The Dark Secret of Teen Mental Illness," is open to the public and begins at 1 p.m. Sunday at West Bloomfield High School, 4925 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield. Preregistration is a $5 donation to Common Ground Sanctuary, or $10 at the door. Register online at

Get help

If you are, or someone you know is, considering suicide or need help right away, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or call 911.

Warning signs of mental illness

Every form of mental illness has its own symptoms but the National Alliance on Mental Illness,, reports that some common signs in adults and teens can include:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling very sad or low
  • Confused thinking or difficulty with concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulty understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality
  • Inability to recognize changes in one's own feelings, behavior or personality
  • Substance abuse
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing aches and pains)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance (mostly in adolescents

For young children, because they're still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms are behavioral, and may include:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums


Between the Lines: Suicide’s Shameful Stigma

Suicide is the epitome of hopelessness. It’s a last resort for people who believe that there is no chance of life improving. Options for help can seem unavailable or unfathomable.

If there is an antidote for suicide, we have yet to find it. But we can be fairly certain that sneers of “get over it” are as helpful as shouting at a drowning person to swim.

An antidote is exactly what the U.S. needs, as the suicide rate in this nation is on a steady rise. Since 2003, the suicide rate in America has grown by 4.2 percent annually. Overall, 5,100 people in Massachusetts killed themselves between 2003 and 2012, according to the Winter 2015 Suicides and Self-inflicted Injuries in Massachusetts Data Summary produced by the Department of Public Health.

In 2012, there were 624 suicides in the state. This elevated the suicide rate from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2003 to 9.4 deaths. Suicide isn’t just a problem in the U.S. According to the World Health Organization, it is the third leading cause of death worldwide.

Despite this growing health concern, care and services for suicidal people and their loved ones are seriously lacking. This probably has a lot to do with the social stigma attached to having suicidal thoughts and seeking help from loved ones or professionals. The social shame associated with suicide keeps many quiet, the WHO and state health department noted. In fact, suicides in this nation and worldwide are underreported because people will try to disguise their deaths as accidents — like a single car crash or asphyxiation — and loved ones are often too embarrassed, guilty, or ashamed to admit that a death was a suicide.

This needs to stop before we lose more bright, creative, caring people to self-harm. The U.S. and the world can no longer treat suicide as a taboo subject. Having suicidal thoughts does not make a person weak. Many people, at some point in their lives, consider suicide. But discussing suicidal ideation may seem horrifying. Fear of rejection, of not being taken seriously, or of being carted off to a mental hospital against one’s will conspire to keep suicidal thoughts a nightmare of one.

The first thing the state and the nation can do to crack the stigma that keeps people from seeking help is to decriminalize suicide. Calling suicide and attempted suicide a crime reinforces the stigma that suicide, and suicidal people, are dangerous and need to be punished. That’s the message being sent from the top, and until that changes, cultural attitudes about mental health and suicide are going to be slow to shift.

The next thing the state and the nation will need to do to quash this preventable and painful scourge is to start funding community mental health services. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the government’s arm in the field of suicide prevention, and it has been dialing back programs that address suicide. In 2014, for example, SAMHSA requested $50 million for suicide prevention programs — $8 million less than what they asked for in 2012, according to the TIME article “Inside the National Suicide Hotline: Preventing the Next Tragedy.”

But increased funding must be spent wisely, and when it comes to current suicide prevention, it’s mostly trial and error to see what works, with little ability to collect data on effectiveness. As the research community will acknowledge, figuring out whether an anti-suicide strategy works is difficult. Unless the suicidal person comes back to where she received services and says, “You saved my life,” there’s no way of knowing.

Right now, the country’s most visible form of suicide prevention is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which provides a person to talk to 24/7 at (800) 273-8255.

As someone who has needed to avail myself of the hotline’s services before, I can tell you that the people who pick up the phone are well-meaning but, at least in my experience, woefully unprepared to provide assistance. The last time I called the hotline, about three years ago, it was to get advice on how to help a suicidal friend, but the operator refused to believe I wasn’t suicidal. She asked me over and over again whether this “friend” I was calling for was really myself.

My friend was on the edge and I couldn’t wrangle any help from the hotline, which was disappointing. I hung up and called the Springfield police to conduct a wellness check on my friend. I’m not sure how that played out. My friend is still alive, but that night was the last time I spoke with her. I’m pretty sure that night was also the first night she reached out to anyone for help with her suicidal thoughts. But she needed help long before that and never got it because she was too afraid admitting her problem would get her locked up in a mental institution away from her children. A single mother should not feel like her only options are killing herself or suffering in silence.

Suicide is wiping out large swaths of our population. The time to sweep mental illness and suicidal thoughts out of our hearts and minds is over. Suicide should be discussed openly and without fear — it is the only way to take power away from this twisted killer. Politicians can show real leadership in this by ridding the nation of the stigma and decriminalizing suicide.•

Kristin Palpini can be contacted at


Costs of Stereotypes

Stereotypes can have a high price, notes Hyde.

There is a "huge cost to belief in overinflated claims about gender differences -- costs in interpersonal relationships [and] in the workplace," she says.

For instance, self-esteem issues are usually mentioned for teen girls, not teen boys, Hyde notes.

"We could overlook the boys with self-esteem problems because we're so focused on girls' problems," she says.

Likewise, Hyde says she doesn't want to see girls' math ability downplayed because people mistakenly believe that boys are better at math.

Tendency to Typecast

The media often play up gender differences, and people often do the same thing, Hyde notes.

"Humans have a tendency to categorize," she says. "We want to categorize people into males and females, blacks and whites, gays and straights. That's a powerful tendency.

"Beliefs in gender differences are very comfortable to people," she says. "It's convenient. Your marriage is in trouble, you go to the therapist, you're having communication problems, it's because she communicates differently than I do," she says.

"Well, the research doesn't actually show huge gender differences in communication," Hyde continues. "It's not about one person being a man and one a woman. It's about trying to communicate better, which is hard work."

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Suicide does not end the chances of life getting worse. Suicide eliminates the possibility of it ever getting better.

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