Art, mental health and suicide: different strategies for increasing access to health services

depressed

(Jonathan Rados, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Ana Karollyne Salviano Ferreira de Melo is a 21-year-old graduate student of the 5th period of Medicine at Rio Grande do Norte State University, Mossoró, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. 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.


From the earliest times in Rome, “seeing yellow” was described as a stigma of the mentally unsound. There is no proven evidence for this, however in artistic scene many painters with mental disorders have preferred this color. The most striking example of this situation is the post-impressionist Vincent van Gogh  whose work in the second period of his career was marked by the use of this color. Even so in many countries this color has been linked to suicide prevention and mental health actions. As an example there is The Yellow Ribbon movement which part of the suicide prevention program in countries such as New Zealand, United States and Brazil.

Since 2014 the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes suicide as a public health priority. This positioning reflects several realities around the world, such as the fact that about 800,000 people die by suicide every year, making it the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29, beyond the fact that 79% of the self-inflicted deaths in the world occur in low and middle income countries. Moreover, despite the strong relationship between mental disorders like depression and alcohol abuse, other factors, such as financial problems, breakdowns or chronic pain and illness,  are associated with increase of these conditions. Suicide rates are also high in vulnerable discriminating groups such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQ); and persons deprived of liberty. By far the most relevant risk factor for suicide is the previous attempt.

According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health research every 45 minutes there is one suicide. This data show how important the discussion of this matter is, especially in places like schools, businesses and churches where there is aggregation of people. However, lectures and conversation circles on the subject may have little effect on the subject. Activities, such as theaters and staging can further arouse viewers’ interest in the subject, making them sensitive to the information. The main objective would be to talk about existing support networks in the national health system like the Life Valuation Center that provides emotional support and suicide prevention, voluntarily serving all people who want and need to talk, free of charge, by telephone, email and chat 24 hours a day.

Besides of that student organizations such as Academic Centers and IFMSA itself can play a relevant role in preventing university suicide. The development of campaigns as movie days, thematic rooms and support groups are pieces that fit the approach closer to the mental health service. For minorities like indigenous and LGBTQ the ideal scenario is debate with protagonists from these groups bringing them closer to the theme. Already for individuals deprived of their liberty it is necessary to reinforce that despite their previous mistakes there is still a world of future possibilities not being death a necessary way for redemption. Finally, for those who attempted suicide, the most recommended is close monitoring and always offer support.

References

GRUENNER; A. Vincent van Gogh’s yellow vision. British Journal of General Practice: v. 63, n. 612, p. 370-371, 2013. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693787/. Accessed on: 18 out. 2019

SENADO NOTÍCIAS. A cada 45 minutos, uma pessoa se suicida no Brasil, dizem especialistas na CAS Fonte: Agência Senado. Available at: https://www12.senado.leg.br/noticias/materias/2017/05/25/a-cada-45-minutos-uma-pessoa-se-suicida-no-brasil-dizem-especialistas-na-cas. Accessed on: 24 out. 2019.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. Suicide. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide. Accessed on: 21 out. 2019.

About the author

Ana Karollyne Salviano Ferreira de Melo is a 21-year-old graduate student of the 5th period of Medicine at Rio Grande do Norte State University, Mossoró, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. She is a member of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations of Brazil (IFMSA Brazil) and has worked on IFMSA Brazil's Local Human Rights and Peace Team in 2018. And in 2019 occupies the position of Local President. She believes that mental health is one of the multiple pillars that make up the well-being of the individual being of paramount importance its discussion and search.

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