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Tag Archives: Suicide Prevention

Ronaldo, Euro Cup 2016 and Why a Former NHL Enforcer Blocked Me on Twitter

(TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE, METHODOLOGY)

Dear Georges Laraque,Laraque1

I am deeply saddened by yesterday’s events. Not by the fact that you blocked me on Twitter – I wasn’t Following your account, in any event – but saddened by what blocking me says about your understanding of mental illness, suicide and stigma.

Don’t get me wrong, Georges, I truly feel for you. What sports fan cannot relate to the heart wrenching loss of a favoured team? Where I feel no empathy is in your choice of words to express the agony you felt in France’s Euro Cup 2016 defeat at the hands of a Ronaldo-less Portugal.

Je vais me pendre.

And for the bilingually-challenged, you even made a point of repeating this message through a second tweet, this time in the language of Shakespeare:

“I’m gonna hang myself.”

That’s what you said, Georges. Word for word. Not once, but twice.

You suggested that your words were just a common expression, a figure of speech. Not one that I’ve ever heard, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. We don’t exactly travel in the same circles.

Now, I’m a reasonable fellow. I truly believe there was no ill-intent on your part. And I also believe you when you say you weren’t being serious. But by the same token, you also said you weren’t joking about or mocking suicide.

You see, Georges, that’s the whole point of why people are upset about these tweets of yours. Regardless of your intent, the opposite of being serious is being light-hearted. Funny. Flippant. Trivial. Pick your own antonym.

Every single day, we lose 11 Canadians to suicide, primarily due to untreated mental illness. That’s almost 4,000 people in Canada every year, leaving an estimated 32,000 loved ones behind to grieve. They deserve more from a public figure like you than light-hearted, flippant “figures of speech” that allude to the painful loss of a loved one.

So yes, I called you on it on Twitter. As I have called out many others and will continue to do so. The only way we can S.T.O.P. the stigma around suicide and mental illness is by calling out the use of language that Stereotypes, Trivializes, Offends or Patronizes people living with mental health issues. Because stigma leads to the shame, isolation and despair at the root of suicide.

In your heart, you know I and others were right to call you on it. Or you wouldn’t have subsequently deleted your trivial tweets and related replies. Thank you for that, by the way. Recognizing the cause of an issue – and trying to limit the harm caused – is half the battle.

But here’s the other half to complete your act of contrition: put out publicly a heartfelt, sincere apology to the survivors of suicide loss for your poor choice of words. Use your public platform to promote suicide prevention.

And become known as a different type of Enforcer, one who lays down the law on language that stigmatizes suicide and mental illness.

Be well,

Jean-François

a.k.a. @DysthymicDad

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Posted by on July 11, 2016 in Blog

 

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Open Letter to CEO Jeff Bezos: 5 Things Amazon Should Have Done in the Suicide Swag Saga

Open Letter to CEO Jeff Bezos: 5 Things Amazon Should Have Done in the Suicide Swag Saga

Keep Calm - AmazonDear Mr. Bezos:

Congratulations. You seem to have weathered the Twitter storm relatively unscathed. Or so I assume, since we haven’t heard a peep from you.

You know what I’m talking about. The recent ruckus raised by the mental health Twitterati over shirts and other swag inciting suicide — or otherwise making light of very serious mental illnesses, such as anorexia and bulimia — being sold via your Amazon platform.

One would think “Keep Calm and Kill Yourself”, “Suicide Watch” and “got suicide?” are hardly the labels you’d want attached to your baby, the Amazon brand. Yet your silence persists.

I fully realize Amazon is, for all intents and purposes, a virtual shopping mall. You own the mall, but can’t be expected to know the full inventory of items on offer by the Mom-and-Pop shop tucked behind the escalators, between the washrooms and the food court. But you can do – and should have done – so much more.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thankful that Amazon appears to have pulled most of the harmful merchandise from its online offering. Until they pop up again. And you know they will.

Here’s some advice on how you should have handled the matter – and how you may still yet do so. Not to save face. Not because it may or may not impact Amazon’s bottom line. But because it’s the right thing do:

  1. Get in front of the issue. Make a public statement on the matter, apologize to survivors of suicide loss and mental illness sufferers, and announce an immediate audit of the merchandise carried on Amazon with a view to identify products harmful to mental health.
  2. Reach out to national mental health organizations and lived experience advocates. Invite them to be part of the solution in identifying these harmful products, both during your audit and on an ongoing basis.
  3. Amend as needed Amazon’s Terms and Conditions. Make it painstakingly clear that Amazon will not stand for merchandise that promotes suicide, self-harm or in any way stigmatizes people living with mental illness. Back it up with penalties to show you mean business.
  4. Develop a monitoring and reporting system. Harmful products need to be identified and taken down from Amazon within 24 hrs. If you can ship and deliver items within this time frame, you can find a solution to removing harmful products within the same service standards. Drones not required.
  5. Play a leadership role in reducing mental illness stigma. Before we know it, Halloween will be right around the corner, which brings with it a plethora of costumes and decorations that stigmatize mental illness. Your voice in the retail industry matters, and would make a significant difference in tackling these issues.

One in five of Amazon’s customers will face a mental health issue or illness this year. Up to one-half over the course of their lifetime. We don’t expect perfection, but we do expect and deserve better.

Will you deliver better, Mr. Bezos? Or are mental health advocates expected to continue playing whack-a-mole every time harmful products rear their ugly heads on Amazon?

Here’s to hoping you’ll one day soon add the title “Stigma Fighter” to your business card.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Blog

 

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Why Canada Needs a Federal Minister for Mental Health

Why Canada Needs a Federal Minister for Mental Health

Few if anyone foresaw the Liberal Red tidal wave that washed over the electoral map Monday night in Canada’s 42nd General Election, rewarding Prime Minister Designate Justin Trudeau with a majority of seats in the House of Commons. An election outcome that can only be credited to the “sunny ways” in which the Grits led their 78-day campaign, offering Canadians “real change” through “hope and hard work”… because, as the Liberals suggested, “better is always possible.”

I’m not in the habit of spouting off campaign slogans. But I thought these might serve as an interesting lens through which we can start building the case as to why Canada needs a federal minister responsible for mental health.

Sunny Ways

Every year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health issue or illness. By some estimates, up to 1 in 3 Canadians will be personally affected by a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime. And yet, mental illness remains in the shadows, relegated to the darkest corners of our healthcare system.

Canadians with lived experience of mental illness are constantly buffeted by the winds of social stigma, causing far too many to withdraw into themselves for protection.  Only by normalizing conversation around mental illnesses can we shed much needed light on the plight of millions of Canadians, help them peel back their protective layers and give them rays of hope for the future.

A Cabinet-level champion for mental health would send a strong signal that a Trudeau Government stands for fairness and parity in health research, care and treatment… and that Canadians with invisible illnesses are valued, are supported and are considered full-fledged participants in Canadian society.

Hope and Hard Work…for Real Change

Beyond offering hope, much hard work would lie ahead for a Minister responsible for Mental Health. With the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s mandate renewed for another 10 years, political leadership will be needed for the creation and implementation of a national Mental Health Action Plan, built on the Mental Health Strategy for Canada developed during the Commission’s original mandate.

Other priorities to be championed by a Minister for Mental Health could consist of:

  1. anti-stigma and anti-discrimination initiatives, including ensuring mental and invisible illnesses are appropriately covered in a National Disabilities Act to be introduced by the government;
  2. workplace mental health, including implementation of the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace across all federal departments and agencies; and,
  3. creation of a suicide prevention fund, as advocated by organizations such as Partners for Mental Health.

Real change in how we treat and care for Canadians living with mental illness will require investments. But the cost of doing nothing is significantly higher. Not only does mental illness cost the Canadian economy an estimated $51 billion annually, untreated mental illness also has a tremendous social cost. For example, we lose approximately 4,000 Canadians to suicide annually. These are preventable deaths that, every year, outnumber total deaths by car accident, drownings, murder, HIV/AIDS and acts of terrorism or war COMBINED.

Better Is Always Possible

Yes, better is ALWAYS possible, but what does better look like when it comes to the state of mental health in Canada?

For starters, less than 8% of total federal health care spending in this country is directed towards mental health research, treatment and care. And yet, the World Health Organization forecasts that by 2020, depression alone will overtake cardiovascular disease as the number one cause of disability burden in developed countries like Canada.

A Liberal government should not condone what is tantamount to a two-tier health care system in Canada: one for physical health, and one for mental health.  Reconciling the two needs to be a government priority, and any new Health Accord negotiated with the provinces and territories ought to include a significant increase in federal investment dedicated to mental health.

A federal Minister for Mental Health could also be charged with overseeing the development and implementation of a National Suicide Prevention Strategy. This would clearly demonstrate that suicide is not only a national, preventable tragedy but a serious public health issue on which a Trudeau government is ready, willing and able to act on.

And the above points of consideration are just off the top of my head. I’m not a mental health expert, and certainly would never claim to be. There are likely many other priorities that experts in the field would be anxious to raise with decision-makers in our newly-elected government.

However, I am 1 in 5 Canadians currently coping with a mental health condition. In my lived experience, elevating mental health as a top priority in a Trudeau government — through the appointment of a Minister responsible for Mental Health — would demonstrate Real Change from the outset, and clearly show a commitment to making better possible for millions of Canadians.

Such a move would make those of us living with mental illness feel much less invisible to our government, our leaders and to society in general… and feel much less like second-class citizens in our country’s supposed “universal” healthcare system.

Here’s hoping a Trudeau government will give us all cause to embrace its sunny ways, and in doing so, give those of us living with a mental health problem or illness the courage to step out of the shadows.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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