Reducing the Stigma of Discussing Mental Health

Reducing the Stigma of Discussing Mental Health (Photo courtesy of user saccharinesmile)
Reducing the Stigma of Discussing Mental Health (Photo courtesy of user saccharinesmile)

With President Obama's announcement last week that he's implementing sweeping gun reform in the shadow of the mass murder/suicide school shootings, the discussion about mental health has taken a back seat. Sheridan Media's Chris Foy continues with part two of our series looking into the causes, risks and possible solutions for suicide - and the mental health issues behind it.

The stigma around discussing mental health is one that Vanessa Hastings, community prevention specialist for the Sheridan County Suicide Prevention Coalition, hopes to reduce.

With the Obama administration's focus on banning certain features on semi-automatic rifles and limitations on magazine size, we don't hear much about mental health. Hastings says it's up to us to remind legislators the issue is much larger than that.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden this month as the White House Commission was working on reforms they said would help prevent tragedies like the Newtown Massacre.

In the letter, the executive director of the AFSP, Robert Gebbia, wrote that more effectively identifying and treating the underlying mental disorders and the compounding life stressors that have the potential to lead to such a tragic loss of life is key. The AFSP recommended the vice president take action in four specific areas: education, outreach and training; access to affordable mental health care; safe schools; and means restriction.

Gebbia also said we have a mental health crisis in this country. He said 38,000 people will end their lives this years. Hastings explains.

When she says most of those who will attempt of complete suicide, Gebbia's statistics say it's 90 percent who have an underlying mental health condition that is undiagnosed or untreated. Hastings says it's up to us to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health - and depression and suicide in particular - in order to help to begin to address this complex issue.

For more information on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, you can visit

Editor's note: For part one of the series, visit

If you're interested in joining the Gatekeepers program, a free one-hour training session in identifying and assisting those in desperate need of help, you can call Vanessa Hastings for more information at 763-3055 or send her an email at

And if you're in crisis, please call the Suicide Lifeline at 800-273-8255. There are trained people available 24 hours a day.

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