Mental health and suicide prevention – what can be done to increase access to mental health services in my local area?

mental health__

(Brunel Johnson, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Ugnė Mickevičiūtė, 22 years old, a fourth year medical student at Vilnius University, Faculty of Medicine (Vilnius, Lithuania). She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Suicide occurs throughout the world, affecting societies and individuals of all nations, cultures, religions, genders and classes. There were an estimated 793 000 suicide deaths worldwide in 2016. This indicates an annual global age-standardized suicide rate of 10,5 per 100 000 population. In fact, statistics show that the countries with the highest suicide rates in the world are incredibly diverse. For example, in 2016 Lithuania takes rank in the fourth place in suicide rates, we are at the top of the list of 183 countries all around the world according to a report of the World Health Organization.

All of these facts make us wonder what we should do differently to solve this pervasive problem.

It is not a mistake to state that when the society is faced with certain problems, many of us tend to blame the system and various social issues. The lack of psychological help and suicide prevention is also a gap in our health care system, but can we really achieve the results we seek?

Perhaps it is bold to say that primary efforts should be made to change attitudes towards people with one or another psychological problem. After all, this is an undeniable stigma. Individuals with depression and suicidal tendencies are stigmatized. And that is a fact. Although Lithuania counts the third decade as an independent state, post-Soviet identity is still lasting. When the society confronts the suicide, lots of us tend to be surprised and shocked, some of us even dare to judge and propose that only a weak person can raise a hand against himself. This situation is not surprising at all, because such an attitude is deeply rooted in Lithuanian culture. It is obvious, that lack of education leads to uncertainty on what psychological health is, how to achieve it and finally how to recognize a person who is facing psychological challenges, how to help them.

Perhaps realizing that there is no one in the world not facing certain psychological problems and accepting it as a norm, will help for some of us to express our emotions easier? Perhaps if we were able to accept psychological problems and suicidal intentions as an inevitability, we would be able to change people’s attitudes towards themselves, help them overcome their fear of potential stigma, and provide access to help? Acknowledging to yourself that you face psychological problems that you can no longer overcome alone is definitely difficult and it is even harder to admit this painful truth to others. We are afraid to appear weak or demented. For some people, even the thought of getting psychological help causes panic because it would mean accepting that something is wrong and it is sort of a destruction of your ego. This assumption can be made because it reflects gender differences in suicide rates higher with men, as it is stereotypically stated that men must be psychologically stronger.

After all, how can we help if we do not even notice or often ignore the problem? How can we expect that a person will seek for help if the fear of being condemned is sometimes greater than the desire to find a way to lead a happy life? We need to realize the fact that just by talking loudly and fearlessly in public about the importance of psychological health, we can reach more.

About the author

Ms. Ugnė Mickevičiūtė, 22 years old, fourth year medical student at Vilnius University, Faculty of Medicine (Vilnius, Lithuania). Active member of Lithuanian Medical Students’ Association (LiMSA).

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