Mental Illness: Fight Against the Stigma

by The Cowl Editor on February 8, 2018


Mark Salling
photo courtesy of Nicole Evatt/AP/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

by Hannah Paxton ’19

Asst. Opinion Editor

In a time where people are so intensely divided—whether it be politics, sports, or any other issue—it is easy to pretend that the world is black and white. When Glee actor Mark Salling committed suicide last Tuesday, his death was celebrated rather than mourned.

There is no question that Salling’s actions before his death were despicable, having been found guilty of possessing child pornography. There is no question that the court would have been justified in sentencing him to four to seven years in prison. But how rational is it to incriminate a human being to the extent that we delight in their death?

Regardless of his faults, Salling was still a human being. His crimes were contemptible, but they should not erase the fact that he was mentally ill. No matter how appalling his actions were in life, death by suicide is tragic and should never be glorified.

Salling’s unstable mental health should not excuse his actions, but it also should not be cause for ignoring the manner in which he died. Nor should we ignore the condition he was in when he was alive.

According to a recent study from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the United States has found a 1.8 percent increase in suicide, remaining the tenth cause of death as of 2017.

Additionally, a 2016 National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) study found that one in six adults in the U.S. has a mental illness. Young adults ages 18 to 25 had the highest percentage of any mental illness at 22.1 percent.

Mental illness and suicide are topics the world does not like to talk about. The stigma towards people with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness is so prevalent that we have become numb to its effects.

This stigma only perpetuates the shame felt by those who live with a mental illness. Despite the large number of people not only in the U.S. but worldwide who have a disorder, we refuse to normalize anxiety and depression.

When we pretend that there is something wrong with a person who is anxious or depressed then they will begin to think the same. No one should have to feel ashamed for who they are, regardless of the mental state they are in.

Shaming someone with a mental disorder is not only ignorant but inhumane. No person should ever have to be in a position where they think ending their life is the only answer. When we see someone else experiencing feelings of guilt and despair, we should not turn the other way.

Perhaps Salling deserved to spend years in prison, but he did not deserve to die the way he did. Rejoicing in a man’s death is just as dehumanizing as his possession of child pornography. Suicide is never the answer, regardless of any criminal actions that were committed in life.