View interactive

Sally Fisher: Education needed to help spot signs of mental illness

7 comments
Photo / Hawkes Bay Today
Photo / Hawkes Bay Today

As a mother who has lost two children, the first a 17-year-old young man from meningococcal septicaemia (hospital negligence) and the second a 27-year-old young man - suicide as an in-patient under the care of a district health board - I believe that my experience enables me to have a very clear understanding of suicide.

And the effect that it has on families and the community as a whole.

We have for generations not acknowledged "the words" mental illness and suicide. The unspoken words - not to be discussed.

My son was a popular intelligent young man, with a multitude of friends. When he became unwell his friends had no understanding of what was happening and slowly they deserted him.

Shane became isolated and extremely lonely. This, we believe, was the culminating factor in his decision to commit suicide.

My belief is that education from primary school level is the key to reducing the suicide rate. When people are unwell/depressed they find it difficult to talk to their friends/families for fear of not being understood.

If people are better equipped to recognise signs and symptoms they may be able to facilitate help which could save that person's life. People need to understand that it is not wrong to feel depressed/unwell and that they can talk to their friends and that their friends will understand. This can only be achieved through education.

An example of a recent suicide: Adolescent female who had a large group of friends who failed to recognise that she was clinically depressed. Her friends were not only traumatised by her death but also the fact that they had not been able to recognise that she was unwell.

If only they knew the signs to look for - a life could perhaps have been saved.

Education should commence from primary school level, utilising the services of the Life Education Bus, and continue through intermediate and into secondary schools.

Suicide is a devastating, tangible measurement of the ultimate failure of our mental health services.

I believe that with adequate, equitable services and education, many of these suicides are preventable. A reduction of these figures will reflect an improvement of overall care.

Society rationalises its guilt over these deaths by associating them with negative labels such as drug taking and schizophrenia, although a high proportion of such deaths have no such associations.

All of us have the potential to become suicidal given the wrong set of circumstances, although people have different thresholds as with other illnesses. Ideology drives that these deaths are inevitable and unpredictable yet advances in knowledge contradict this.

As with all illnesses early intervention makes a huge impact on outcome. Mental illness is just the same. Advancements in knowledge and medication make it imperative that this is instituted so that, as has happened with other illnesses such as asthma, the outcomes are markedly improved.

There is a failure to think of mental illness in the same way as other "physical" illnesses. This detracts from rationale management.

The prime example of this is the ideology that suicide is unpredictable. It is as predictable and preventable as a stroke or heart attack, if the warning signs are acknowledged and acted on. This can be achieved by education.

Although there has been progress in the promotion and recognition and community acceptability of mental illnesses the services to manage them have not been put in place.

In particular, the availability of psychological and healing environments in a holistic sense have been reduced, with an increasing emphasis on drug management which may be inappropriate or detrimental.

I believe that suicide should be discussed and reported.

It is important that how someone commits suicide is not reported but the fact that someone has ended their life should not be kept locked away so that people are unaware of its prevalence.

Please let us educate the public to recognise when someone is unwell/depressed to enable them to receive the necessary help and to ensure that they do not become isolated from their friends, when the most important thing in their lives is friends.

- NZ Herald

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 23 Sep 2014 03:11:07 Processing Time: 732ms