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Wentworth Miller and What’s Next for Mental Health Issues

CHICAGO — By now, thousands of people have read Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller’s soul-bearing response to a fat-shaming meme from The LAD Bible.
The openly gay actor revealed his struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide in a Facebook post March 28. In the post Miller wrote about turning to food, though, “It could’ve been anything. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex…”

The meme was hurtful, wrote Miller but “I survived…And the meaning I assign to this/my image is strength. Healing. Forgiveness.”

Today I found myself the subject of an Internet meme. Not for the first time. This one, however, stands out from the…

Posted by Wentworth Miller on Monday, March 28, 2016

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.”

Generally I like to post every day M-F. But after my last post I felt the need to take a beat. Reflect. Go for a walk….

Posted by Wentworth Miller on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

As suicidologist gather in Chicago this week for the 49th Annual Conference of the American Association of Suicidology, some mental health experts applaud Miller for his willingness to be vulnerable while the world hangs on his every word. They said more of that needs to happen. The National Institutes of Health reports that the risk of suicide in the U.S. is greatest among white men, however, women and teens report more suicide attempts. Doctors relate suicide and suicide attempts to depression, alcohol, substance, or a major stressful event. 

“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.”

The Utah Health Department reports men are a greater risk for suicide in every age group but it’s not just in Utah. “Men by nature keep things in and ‘tough it out’ or say ‘I can do it on my own’ and that’s why in Utah we have a strategic effort to engage men in their own mental wellness,” explained Gardner. Those bold efforts are happening with NAMI Utah as Gardner and his team tackle mental health challenges with “Man Therapy.”
While suicidologists and other Mental Health experts call on members of society to change the way they see and treat people with mental health challenges, Gardner said he understands that “some people are still fearful of the consequences” but ultimately it’s up to each individual, especially men experiencing deep emotional pain to step out and seek help.
“We understand there’s an interplay between how we perceive ourselves and what others will think of us if we cannot do this on our own,” said Gardner. “We’re trying to change that for men and those who care for them.”

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.”

Photo by guccio@文房具社

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