Lets talk about Mental Health

Daniel Frawley

Mental Health… Suicide… why are these things not talked about more? It is so common and an epidemic, but we only seem to discuss it when a celebrity takes their own life. It affects us is some way, whether directly,  or someone you know,  has dealt with mental illness.


We share just about everything, from what we ate today, to pictures of our cats and dogs. But when it comes to discussing our feelings, we elect to keep them to ourselves. The comparison often made says that mental health should be treated the same as physical health. If someone breaks their arm, there’s no question that they are going to seek medical attention and they will be properly treated. When it comes to mental health, the patient may be too insecure to seek attention, and discuss their feelings. In the United States, 1 in every 5 teens suffer or have experienced at some point a mental disorder severe enough to affect every-day activities, according to LiveScience.com. As said, the tough part is to get the patient to open up about how they are feeling.

Grace Maxon-Clarke is an academic planning counselor at SUNY Oswego, but is also a SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) certified counselor. When asked why mental health and suicide isn’t talked about as much as it should, she made an interesting comparison. Grace said “it reminds me of the Disney movie Frozen. This girl has this magical power of turning things to ice, but her father tells her to conceal it, don’t show it… I think people don’t want to be labeled over something they can’t control.”

SAVE is an organization that attempts to educate the public on suicide and provide outlets for those struggling with any mental disorder. Their mission statement:  SAVE focuses its efforts and resources on six main program areas: Public Awareness, Education, Training and Consulting, Grief Support, Products & Resources, and Research and Innovation; via SAVE.org. It’s organizations like SAVE that attempt to make it easier for someone to come forward with their feelings, and give them an opportunity to receive support.

Events like the Stride to SAVE Lives hosted as SUNY Oswego are designed to support the cause not only financially, but to show compassion to those who have lost a friend or family member due to suicide and those struggling with mental disorders. The event is held annually in September, and features guest speakers to discuss their own experiences, and how they try to make a difference going forward.

Via: SAVE on Facebook

Depression as well as all mental disorders are not always obvious. That being said, it is important that we not only check up on our friends and family that may be going through a tough time, but to also check on those who appear to be doing well. Everyone in the photo above were very successful, famous people; but we are unable to see inside their mind to know what they may be going through on the inside. Paying close attention to one’s behavior can sometimes be the difference in getting them the help they need.

Signs to be aware of are isolation; if someone is avoiding their friends or no longer doing the things they used to love to do, do not be afraid to ask how they are doing. Another sign that should be taken very seriously is if the person is self-harming in any way, even if the person brushes it off by saying something like “it was only a one-time thing” or “it didn’t mean anything.” No matter what the case, something drove them to harm themselves, and you should feel comfortable telling a professional or talk with them about support options.

Also if someone is continuously overindulging in alcohol or using drugs frequently, that can be a sign that they are facing something mentally. The examples of artist, Mac Miller and Layne Staley the former lead singer of Alice in Chains who both died from overdoses. Both of which were extremely famous and successful, but were noted to suffer from depression. The two turned to drugs as a coping mechanism and paid the ultimate price of losing their life. While under the influence of drugs or alcohol people can also act on impulse which can cause their actions to be unpredictable.

Grace Maxon-Clarke mentioned that if anyone ever threatens to take their own life she does not take it lightly. The person may be upset with you for getting other people involved but you should always err on the side of caution. Life is too valuable to not be taken seriously.

Jodi, whose husband wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder until he was 38 describes living with the high high’s and low low’s as challenging, saying “when your loved one is in a ‘depressive’ state, you worry about thoughts of suicide. With bipolar, the ‘high’ state often leads to agitated outbursts, so you feel as though you have to walk on eggshells.”

While none of these “outbursts” are violent in any way, it can create a tense environment. Her husband is properly medicated, and has had the help he needed to live an even keeled life. When asked about her role in support she responded: “When my husband was going through depression, I felt my role was support him… remind him how much he is loved by his family and friends, and he has so much to live for.” Jodi did the right thing when telling me she “would encourage friends to reach out to him throughout the day when I couldn’t be with him” as well as “create a positive routine to help cope with his feelings.”

Original artwork from SUNY Oswego Senior, Hannah Lynch.

Suicide is a permanent action to a temporary feeling. No matter how low you ever see yourself, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. After Jodi’s husband got out of his depressed state, she says that “he has a completely different outlook on life.” There is too much to live for, things do get better, and you can get back to feeling the way you should.

If you, or anyone you know has thoughts of self-harm or suicide call the suicide hotline at:   1-800-273-8255 or reach out to any counselor or friend.


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