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Breaking the stigma on mental health

Posted at 9:24 AM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 11:24:12-04

In a surprising interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle revealed her struggle with suicidal ideation. As the target of tabloids, she fell into a depression and suffered from suicidal thoughts.

In an act of bravery and candor, she shared her experience of coming forward to seek treatment only to be told that she could not receive mental health assistance for concern as to how it might look to the public.

Markle’s story is a harrowing reminder that stigma surrounding suicidal thoughts and mental health issues is as present as ever, even for those of high status. Stigma is a significant barrier for people seeking help and can have substantial impacts on those suffering from mental health issues.

“Someone like Meghan Markle speaking publicly about their struggle with mental health and journey to seek help can have an enormous impact on reducing stigma,” says Kathryn Richards, Community Health Specialist at Intermountain Healthcare. “Markle recognized her struggle and was brave in asking for the help she knew she needed.”

Markle’s situation punctuates the important role family and friends play in supporting those with mental health issues. “Validating their struggle and listening in a nonjudgmental and empathetic way is one of the easiest ways to support a friend or loved one,” says Richards.

The topic of suicide can be uncomfortable for many of us, but Markle’s story is an urgent reminder to not shy away from the discomfort. Many are concerned that talking or asking about suicide may prompt suicidal behaviors or ideation in children or adolescents, but this is not supported by evidence.

The Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition provides trainings to recognize and help those who are suffering from thoughts of suicide, available on LiveOnUtah.org.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.