On a characteristically sunny Southern California day in October 2012, my husband, Bill, walked onto the MetroLink tracks near our Dana Point home, spread his arms wide, and completed suicide as he was struck by the oncoming train.
Bill was depressed. He was anxious. He suffered with substance abuse, steroid use and a host of other “typical” symptoms of mental illness. But Bill was also a victim. He bought into the widespread stigma about mental illness that plagues our society today. He was a middle-aged, white man with the strength to move mountains. In fact, Bill was a body builder and gym owner. He was the picture of physical health. But inside, Bill was dying. And the help he needed required him to admit the impossible – he couldn’t control his brain.
Bill’s shame wasn’t an anomaly in 2012, just as it isn’t today. In fact, Mental Illness Policy Org. reports that half of Americans suffering from severe psychiatric disorders are receiving no treatment – that’s as many as 3.5 million individuals.
While there’s no one reason to explain this issue, I know what held Bill back. It wasn’t that he had no one begging him to get help – I was. It wasn’t even that he didn’t recognize the symptoms in himself – he did. For Bill, it was the shame associated with society’s mental health stigma that kept him from the saving arms of treatment. It was the embarrassment and denial that comes with admitting to be what society calls “broken.”
Break the Stigma
by Kristi Hugstad
Each of us has attached ourselves to something or somebody, and when you lose that special thing or person, you grieve. Always. You can try to run from it all you want, but it will always find you and tackle you when you’re not looking. My blogs, along with my books, will give you the tools to help you learn to live with your new self as you journey through your grief.