Every time a high-profile celebrity commits suicide, the hashtag #gethelp immediately begins trending on Twitter. I know this imploring comes from a desire for our friends to be okay. But if you have struggled with mental illness, you know that the dominant narrative that “help is just a phone call away” is so untrue that it feels almost cruel.
Flare let me write about what we should do instead:
I was lucky to get a great deal of support outside of the system. Even though I’d only been at my current employer for two months at that point, my bosses regularly checked in to make sure my tasks were not interfering with my recovery. Even better, no one ever made me feel weird if I ended up in tears during staff meetings. When my treasured doctor (who I found through my then-partner) retired, he had made sure that his practice was taken over by someone who was equally committed to mental health advocacy. Finally, I also had a solid crew of friends who organized schedules to ensure I was never alone when it wasn’t safe for me to be.
But as many barriers as I faced, others face far more. Calling 911 in a crisis often results in a police visit, which for many individuals makes the situation only more dangerous. When some folks disclose mental illness, they risk losing their jobs or even their children. In a recent report from Winnipeg, an Indigenous woman says that she was asked during labour to complete a questionnaire that included questions about mental health; afterward, her child became a ward of the state.