The meme was hurtful, wrote Miller but “I survived…And the meaning I assign to this/my image is strength. Healing. Forgiveness.”
The actor has already had thousands of favorable responses to his bold message and thanked his Facebook friends and fans in a post on March 30. “If anyone feels like they’re alone in the battle against depression, anxiety, what have you…one look at this page proves the opposite it true,” wrote Miller. “To everyone walking a road that looks like mine, or kind of like mine, or nothing like mine but still made the effort to comment, share, ‘like,’ and care, I say thank you. You are in my thoughts and prayers.”
“It’s wonderful for people to have the courage to talk about very difficult things that people find shameful,” said Kimball Gardner, Director of Prevention at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Utah.
Gardner attended the conference, where mental health workers discussed suicide prevention. “Perhaps someone of that stature talking about it can give others hope that they too can make it through difficult times.”
Utah, along with several other Western states have high rates of suicide, explained Gardner. And Miller’s mental health challenges are a reminder of what society can be doing better he said, especially among men and LGBT communities. People from all walks of life experience mental health challenges and are at risk of suicide, explained Gardner.
“We do believe that being part of the LGBT community is a risk factor for suicide because of isolation, fear of rejection, fear of fitting into a community or family,” said Gardner. Society needs to work harder and consistently to erase the stigma associated with suicide. Right now, society needs to “recognize that mental health challenges are no different than physical challenges and they need to be addressed sooner than later.”
We can learn from the past said Gardner, “For example, 75 years ago, there was a lot of stigma surrounding cancer. But then there were conscious efforts to recognize that cancer is an illness. That’s what we’re trying to do. Mental health challenges are real and can be treated and people can recover.”
Gardner believes that Miller’s post will help people feel like they are not alone but he also hopes his message will start a cultural shift where mental health challenges no longer carry a stigma but create an environment of support.
“Suicide is complex. It is multi-faceted,” said Gardner. “We want to create protective environments for people suffering with mental challenges, including, family, connection to communities, physical activity or exercise, religiosity or spirituality. The point is there is hope.”
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