Talking (and talking, and talking) about mental health

“Let’s get people talking about mental health.” It sounds good in principle, but like many turns of phrase that sound virtuous, in the wrong hands and in the wrong context it is advice that can be anything but helpful.

[I wrote most of this article shortly after the death of actor Robin Williams. It has sat in draft for a few years for no particular reason, and I have brushed it up and published it now.]

Another man has killed himself, this time another entertainer. Although more women than men harm themselves, more men than women kill themselves. News stories that carry the story are, as always, including contact details for youth mental health services, and the story is being associated with the fact that we need to talk about depression and suicide. That message is loud and clear: We need to talk about it. It’s great that we’re getting people talking. We need to talk more. We need to get the issue out there more and get people talking. Talk!

That’s good and bad. Continue reading “Talking (and talking, and talking) about mental health”

Growing old but still dying young

New Zealand’s suicide rate is down. But there’s an unhappy story here about our elderly.

Figures for the year ending 30 June 2014 show that our overall suicide rate is at its lowest since the year ending 30 June 2008. Whether it’s the overall economic environment and direction, hopelessness / hopefulness about jobs or more personal scenarios: Family hardship (or an improvement therein), relationship status, or (hopefully!) improvement in the shape of mental health services, this is encouraging. Mental health and suicide has been thrust into the limelight recently, and that’s a brilliant thing. Continue reading “Growing old but still dying young”