Be­fore it's too late

Starkville Daily News - - FAITH -

When men­tal ill­ness and sui­cide im­pacts the rich and fa­mous, we as media con­sumers take no­tice.

One of the first news events I vividly re­mem­ber, af­ter all, was the sui­cide of Nir­vana front­man Kurt Cobain in 1994. Sui­cide, es­pe­cially when celebri­ties are in­volved, sticks in our mem­o­ries be­cause of the ques­tions left in the wake and how it hu­man­izes those we of­ten put on pedestals.

This week, the world lost two ti­tans of star­dom to sui­cide: An­thony Bourdain and Kate Spade. Their un­timely deaths sent shock­waves through the pop cul­ture con­scious­ness and res­ur­rected an oft-used dialogue fo­cus­ing on men­tal health and ad­dic­tion.

We act sur­prised that such beau­ti­ful and suc­cess­ful peo­ple could reach that point, even when the same prob­lems are within arm's reach - af­fect­ing our chil­dren, our neigh­bors and pos­si­bly even our­selves.

But will their deaths make a dif­fer­ence as it re­lates to putting a longterm spot­light on sui­cide? That's yet to be seen.

Any men­tal health ex­pert will tell you that de­pres­sion, which is one of the most preva­lent fac­tors that can lead to sui­cide, is not prej­u­dice.

De­pres­sion af­fects peo­ple of all shapes, col­ors and be­liefs and in many ways is no bet­ter un­der­stood to­day than it was 10 or 20 years ago. While it is more eas­ily di­ag­nosed and treated, sui­cide rates con­tinue to climb across the coun­try, which un­der­scores an ob­vi­ous gulf sep­a­rat­ing those suf­fer­ing and those who can do some­thing about it.

For in­stance, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion re­ported that sui­cide rates in Mis­sis­sippi in­creased

2016, which is still much lower than the na­tional av­er­age in­crease of 25.4. How-

higher than it should be in Mis­sis­sippi.

With the lack of beds and avail­able re­sources for in pa­tient care in a poverty-stricken state like Mis­sis­sippi, it can seem hope­less for many seek­ing treat­ment, es­pe­cially those who com­mit­ted a crime as a result of a men­tal ill­ness or drug ad­dic­tion. They be­come a prod­uct of an un­der­funded re­volv­ing-door sys­tem in­ca­pable of pro­vid­ing them the in­di­vid­u­al­ized care they need to be a pro­duc­tive mem­ber of so­ci­ety.

May was Men­tal Health Aware­ness Month, but it seemed to come and go with lit­tle fan­fare - far re­moved from the wide­spread pub­lic­ity of Amer­i­can Heart Month in Fe­bru­ary or Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month in Oc­to­ber. This is not to shortchange the im­por­tance of rais­ing aware­ness for those causes, but men­tal health seems to re­main on the fringes of pub­lic con­sid­er­a­tion and is a prob­lem that has far-reach­ing con­se­quences when left unat­tended.

And with no magic wand to ad­dress an is­sue that each state, county and mu­nic­i­pal­ity han­dles dif­fer­ently, most don't even at­tempt to start the dialogue.

So what's at

Our com­mu­ni­ties.

Just last spring, Starkville mourned the tragic death of 12-year-old Mariah Isaacs, who took her own life. The sui­cide of this young girl turned the com­mu­nity up­side down for a brief time, spurring an­gry and emo­tional crowds of peo­ple to call for po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the kids or peo­ple who drove her to the point of tak­ing her own life.

The po­lice con­trib­uted to the hys­te­ria, telling a crowd of peo­ple at a can­dle­light vigil that the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble would be brought to jus­tice. Don't get me wrong, ev­ery­one's hearts were in the right place when it came to want­ing jus­tice for Mariah, but apart from nearly spark­ing a witch­hunt, what has been ac­com­plished stake? since her death? What do we have to show for it?

Are those re­spon­si­ble any closer to be­ing brought to jus­tice or have we cre­ated a pro­duc­tive dialogue to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing again?

And did we not learn any­thing from this dark point in our city's his­tory? It hon­estly seems like a few weeks af­ter her death, we as a com­mu­nity hit the re­set but­ton and went back to our ev­ery­day lives.

The re­al­ity is un­changed, though. We have peo­ple of all ages who struggle ev­ery sin­gle day, yet we as com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try can't seem to agree on what to do about it. What's more, it's of­ten eas­ier to sweep these is­sues un­der the rug than to look in­ward and con­sider how we as a so­ci­ety are com­plicit.

Luck­ily, in our part of Mis­sis­sippi, we do have valu­able re­sources such as Com­mu­nity Coun­sel­ing Ser­vices, that of­fer a wide-range of op­tions to pro­vide sup­port for peo­ple suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion, ad­dic­tion or other fac­tors that can lead to sui­cide.

In my novice opin­ion, when some­one has the urge to com­mit sui­cide, it means we have failed them as friends, a com­mu­nity and a so­ci­ety as a whole be­cause we ei­ther didn't take the time to no­tice the signs, or didn't put in the ef­fort to get them the help that they so des­per­ately needed.

For those in need of help, or if you think a loved one may be sui­ci­dal, call the Con­tact Helpline lo­cally at 662-

Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Life­line at

Most im­por­tantly, take time ev­ery day to be con­sid­er­ate of oth­ers and kind to the peo­ple you en­counter. Call up a friend you may not have talked to in a while. It doesn't have to be a long con­ver­sa­tion, but I'm a be­liever that just a lit­tle bit of com­pas­sion and sin­cer­ity could be the thread that holds some­one up from falling into the abyss.

Ryan Phillips is the ex­ec­u­tive edi­tor of the Starkville Daily News. The views ex­pressed in this col­umn are his and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views and opin­ions of the news­pa­per, or its staff.

RYAN PHILLIPS

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