"I'm in debt. I'm having a hard time paying my bills. I can't even get a job in fast food because they tell me I'm overqualified. I just feel like I can't come back from this. That my life is over," she told me.
Why do people commit suicide?
Whether we say it out loud or not, what we often feel is that "they" were too weak or too selfish.
Interestingly enough, we say the same thing about people who die of illnesses like cancer - the lost the fight, etc. Yes when we talk about physical illness, it's okay; the struggle itself was noble and in the end, the odds were always in the diseases favour.
When it comes to mental illness, though, that doesn't apply. It's a willpower thing and when people commit suicide, it's like the deceased didn't try hard enough. Mind over matter, right?
Hate to break it to you, folks, but mind is matter. Our minds are the product of neurochemistry in our noggins. Why do drunk people have bad judgment? It's biology. Why are tired people cranky, or people on crack prone to flyering cars at high speeds? It's because the minds of those individuals are impaired by substances that have physical impacts.
Abuse, poverty, work stress or no work at all - these all work on the system like a toxin, little doses of lead consumed every day that change physiology. Workplace-accrued depression is the same as workplace-accrued carpal tunnel syndrome - the environment and work done has an impact.
We can keep telling people to "get over" mental illnesses and grieving (or dismissing) their deaths, but the truth is this medical oversight is costing us more than lives - it's costing us billions.
And it's getting worse. More and more pressure is being placed on people less able to say no or stand for themselves, increasing the likelihood of conditions like depression or anxiety setting in.
This has a negative impact on productivity and innovation. Go ahead and disbelieve it - blame your staff for their own woes, suggest they aren't tough enough and keep the pressure on. It'll do wonders for your business and your own blood pressure.
They can't "get over it" any more than you can ignore the problem forever. Like any illness, the best course of action is to address it early, before it explodes.
That's something only we can do through culture change and more than a bit of introspection.
We can come back from this. But we're losing time.