View: Colleges must stop hiding suicide

Originally published in The Journal News, Sept. 16, 2015

By Julianne cuba

Colleges, and beyond, must open up about suicide and broaden access to mental health treatment

During one of my first days of journalism school, in an ethics class, I got into a civilized argument with most of my classmates.

We were broken up into small groups and given different “real-life” scenarios, then we had to decide how to report the story.

Most of us acknowledged that it is not the reporter’s responsibility to out someone’s disease, like HIV.

We also agreed that sharing someone’s past and irrelevant criminal record is not appropriate for a story about how, years later, he became a successful, local baseball coach.

But for one of the scenarios, I stood alone: Whether or not to report on a young woman’s suicide.

Most of my classmates believed the information should be kept secret; I firmly said yes, we report on her suicide.

As we would with any other news report, we share her name. We show her personality and talk about her unique qualities and achievements. We share her family members’ and friends’ tributes.

We also share her struggle with mental illness — and because mental illness should be treated as if it were any other disease, we share that she lost her battle.

I fully understand and appreciate that family and close friends have full discretion in how much they share with the media.

But it does need to be addressed, at some point. It needs to be done respectfully, poignantly.

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Addicts deserve compassion, not incarceration

In another article about mental illness, I wrote about addiction and mass incarceration- an epidemic that is rapidly growing in the United States. Many portray those who suffer from addiction in a negative light, as low-lifes, and as failures. But like any other mental illness, addicts deserve our help and understanding.

“The millions of people we mindlessly incarcerate for drug use are not taken to rehabilitation centers where they can appropriately recover; they are taken to jail, where the root of their addictions are overlooked and the conditions in which they are surrounded provide a heartless and intolerant environment that only fosters more pain.

The bottom line is that as long as drugs exist, people will use them. Unfortunately, deaths from overdose are not enough to stop people from using. Like any other mental illness or disease, drug addictions are beyond one’s control. According to the government-run website for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Scientists estimate that genetic factors account for between 40 and 60 percent of a person’s vulnerability to addiction, including the effects of environment on gene expression and function.””

Read the full article here

Belcher’s suicide a chance to reverse a stigma

Back in December 2012, when pro-football player, Jovan Belcher committed murder-sucide, the idea of such a masculine figure dealing with depression and other anxieties was considered completely taboo. I used Belcher’s story to try to reduce some of that stigma, and to help people realize that mental health issues do not discriminate.

“But what Belcher did after he killed his girlfriend is what needs to be focused on. Belcher’s suicide changes this tragedy from a heartless act to a cry for help, and we should learn from Belcher instead of just labeling him a cold-blooded killer.

Suicide is not a light topic, but that does not mean it should be taboo.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, every 13.7 minutes, someone in the United States dies as a result of suicide.

Every 40 seconds, someone, somewhere in this world, commits suicide.

In 2010, 38,364 Americans committed suicide.

Those numbers are not small. They are significant statistics, and we should not feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about them.”

Read the full story here 

Destigmatize mental health issues

Mental health is one of my favorite issues to write about and to discuss. I believe everyone should be educated in mental health, and should understand that people who suffer from issues such as depression, anxiety and drug addiction, don’t do so willingly. Mental health has a large stigma attached to it, and to the people that suffer. I hope that through continuously writing about mental health, I can help people understand and reduce the stigma that surrounds it.

Throughout my years writing for Pipe Dream, I chose to focus on mental health related issues as often as possible. In one of those articles, I wrote about my own struggles with anxiety.

After weeks of concerned comments from both my teachers and friends, I saw a neurologist. 

There was absolutely nothing physically wrong with me. No tumors or blood clots. What I had was tics, a less serious form of Tourette’s Syndrome (TS).

TS is, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “a neurologic illness that begins in childhood or adolescence. The essential feature of TS is tics — multiple movements or vocalizations that are sudden, rapid and purposeless.”

I am certain that when most people hear the word “Tourette’s,” they think of someone uncontrollably shouting out profanity in a large auditorium.

Sadly, some severe cases of Tourette’s do manifest themselves in that way, but more than 60 percent do not.

I am also certain that most of us have either made fun of, or have been around someone who has made fun of, a person with Tourette’s.

It’s understandable; the noises and actions can catch people off-guard, and sometimes you just have to laugh.

But that is where the stigma that surrounds the illness comes from and why it is so taboo.”


Read the full article here