The Deathly Consequences of a Mental Health Stigma

5 Min Read

Content warning: The following article contains a graphic description of a suicide attempt as well as discussion of depression, suicidal tendencies, and abuse. Please be advised before continuing to read.

June 6th was the day I was supposed to die. I had stopped eating and drinking for two days. The goal was to become so lightheaded that hanging myself would be easier to do. I thought I could just fall forward and the bathrobe belt over the door would take care of the rest. Luckily, my friend broke down my door and saved me. He would watch over me for the next few days while I sought help. He was my version of being placed on a suicide watch. How did I get to this point? I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. It is a mental health condition that no one wants to help.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a condition where the brain lacks the standard amount of impulse control receptors. Your moods are intense, fast, unpredictable, and rapidly changing. Everything is felt in extreme waves of emotion. It's as if you are in a tornado of your feelings. Some days you are in the calm eye of the storm. Other days you are swept up and are out of control. No matter which day it is, you tend to leave destruction in your path.

There is no medication to treat BPD. You can take pills to treat the side effects of anxiety or depression, but there's still no guarantee of relief. The most effective treatment is Dialectic Behavioral Therapy. So how did I spiral so low? Why didn't I reach out for help? Well, I did reach. I reached far and wide.

I never wanted to die. I just wanted a break from living.

As I lay in bed, in my depressive state, I texted others. I looked for a reason to get out of bed. I never told them how down I truly was. There is an inherent embarrassment of having a mental disorder. Society expects you to manage your symptoms, and you are expected to operate at the same level as a functional person. Every time someone didn't answer back or told me they were busy, I fell further down in my depression. A common characteristic of BPD is to think in extremes: all or nothing, evil or good. So as my friends were unavailable, suddenly the thought took over that I had zero friends. That no one cared. That's when the transition occurred from going from depressed to suicidal. 7 out of 10 people with BPD will attempt suicide. One person will die out of the ten.

The suicidal tendencies of those diagnosed with BPD have the medical community labeling us as "attention seekers" or "high maintenance." We are aware of these labels, which makes it even more difficult to reach out for help. I called the suicide hotline and decided to hang up when I realized I was number 21 in line for help. I got lucky when a friend checked on me.

This group of people needs to be met with empathy and recognized as the survivors they are. Let's see them not as high-maintenance but as warriors fighting a battle that you do not see.

Afterward, I started on the path of seeking help. I never wanted to die. I just wanted a break from living. Sadly, there is no pause button in life. I honestly felt at that moment that my life didn't matter to anyone and had no value. I called my family doctor for a referral for inpatient or outpatient services. I advised them that I had attempted suicide, was still feeling very unstable, and could no longer handle day-to-day life. Two weeks later, they called me back.

They advised me that within the whole network of doctors, therapists, and social workers in their practice, no one had picked up my case. No one wanted to help someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. How was I supposed to rebuild my self-worth when I had a whole network of medical professionals showing me that my life was not viewed as worth saving? Welcome to the stigma of living with mental illness.

As a society, we have to stop shaming those with mental illness causing them to hide their struggles.

The person with poor eyesight puts on their glasses. The diabetic takes insulin. When our immune system is compromised, we take medicine. In these instances, we are never told to try harder, to take a walk, to just think more positively. We are never faulted or shamed for our bodies' physical shortcomings. Yet when dealing with the brain, we still shame those that need help when their brains are lacking in either chemical production or, in my case, a lack of impulse control receptors. The lack of empathy and understanding can be lethal to those struggling.

The majority of those diagnosed with BPD have experienced abuse. This background makes us very skilled at concealing our struggles. This "happy persona" that is portrayed plays into the shock that others feel when someone takes their own life. As a society, we have to stop shaming those with mental illness causing them to hide their struggles. This group of people needs to be met with empathy and recognized as the survivors they are. Let's see them not as high-maintenance but as warriors fighting a battle that you do not see. But with all battles, you need support, you need weapons. This is supposed to be where the medical community steps in.

The mantra of suicide support is to reach out. We cannot keep telling those with mental health struggles to reach out and then smack their hand away, shaming them for asking for help. The idea of reaching out is being set up to reassure others that there is help for those in need. It is an illusion that needs to be shattered. For those that struggle living every day, should it be up to them to reach out? Maybe the narrative should change. How can we be more like the friend that checks on those with mental illness? We need more people out there breaking down doors, extending a hand filled with empathy, and helping us hope for a better tomorrow.

3 min read

Help! My Friend Is a No Show

Email armchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get the advice you need!

Help! My Friend Is a No Show

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.


Dear Sadsies,

I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.

I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!

- The Armchair Psychologist

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