Suicide and mental health are issues that are too often overlooked in our society. The construction industry, in particular, has the highest rate of suicide per industry. Mental illnesses are diseases affecting the brain that can be monitored and treated. Suicide is preventable.
You're Not Alone - A Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Blog for the Construction Industry by Bob Swanson
October 2017 - Updating Our Terminology for Those Hidden in Plain Sight
Most people who live with a mental health condition are active and productive members of our society. Due to a lack of visible, physical signs of a health condition, we are often not aware that a family member, friend or colleague is living with a mental health condition. Furthermore, because of stigma and shame, the person will often deny the presence of any mental health condition when asked; and therefore not seek the care they need.
A starting point in addressing the issues of mental health and suicide is to change our terminology. A change in terminology enables us to see these issues differently. Three examples are listed below:
|Common Language||Preferred Language|
|"He's bipolar."||"He lives with bipolar disorder."|
|"She has a mental illness."||"She lives with a mental health condition."|
|"He committed suicide."||"He died by suicide." or "His death was caused by a brain disease."|
What changes when using different terminology? When we say "he’s bipolar" or "she has a mental illness," we imply that it is the individual's fault. This affirms stigma and shame. With all physical illnesses, however, our terminology separates the person from the illness.
An example would be us typically saying "he has prostate cancer." Note how we don't say "he’s prostate cancer." This change in terminology places the blame on the disease instead of the individual for their health condition. Now let's examine the statement "she committed suicide." This statement places the blame on the individual, because they're the one who completed the act. However, the individual in this case had a mental health condition that caused her to lose all hope for continued life. We will reduce suicide deaths only when we focus on the root causes and stop laying the blame with the individual.
As with any change, the use of new terminology will seem awkward at first. However, it will change your perspective regarding mental health and suicide - give it a try.
Learn more about this important topic from Bob's podcast on mental health awareness and suicide prevention in the construction industry.