Youth suicide in New Zealand is a major issue. The 20-29-year-old group are more vulnerable than the teenage group. Our rates compare with the worst statistics worldwide. An internet search will find numerous articles on this issue, the underlying causes, the gender paradox (greater suicidal ideation among females but far worse male fatalities), psycho-social concepts in individuals and cultures.
What is it that prevents a youth from presenting their problem to someone and/or a healthcare professional? Is it because of the stigma attached to the term “mental health”? Is it a fear of it all being “in my head”? I am concerned that the medical and allied professions may have created a false dichotomy in the concept of health viz the physical versus the mental. Somehow the former seems legitimate – and the latter less so? Somehow it is OK to have a physical ailment – but not to be emotionally unwell? The question, “Is it all in my head doc?”, prompts the response “where else would it be?” How does one experience anything other than in one’s head!? The one diagnosis is as deserving as the other and neither should prompt judgement.
Surely we need to do better at creating an environment where, from an early age, our youth are comfortable disclosing their feelings of desperation without fear of judgement or stigma. Perhaps dispelling the myth of “mental vs. physical” is a good starting point .I am not suggesting that if we were informed about the issues confronting someone in such a state of despair, that we would necessarily prevent suicide, but it would at least afford the opportunity to try. If you have, or if you know anyone who has concerns about emotional wellness – particularly in the 15-29-year age group, ask for help.