Last week I learnt of another tragic teen suicide. Jayden Arnold committed suicide in the early hours of Sunday, the 9th of November. No one saw his suicide coming; Jayden was attractive, he was a leader, he was a “normal” guy. Yet he suffered so deeply he felt he had no other option but to take his own life.
Six months prior to the suicide Jayden’s school counsellor disclosed to his family that he was struggling with anxiety. He saw a psychologist and his family thought his anxiety was being handled. Unfortunately, the scope of Jayden’s suffering was deeper than his friends and family could have ever known.
Suicide is the leading cause in men aged 15-44. Men are three times more likely to kill themselves than women. It is a silent killer. Silent because no one is talking about it.
It blows my mind that we live in one of the most developed countries, where opportunities are endless and quality of life is high, yet suicide rates continue to grow. Australia places 49 out of 110 in the list of countries with the highest suicide rates. Coming before countries that live in poverty, that live in war. So why are as many as five teens attempting suicide everyday? And why are three out of those five male?
Mental illness is actually higher in women; one in five men experience anxiety and one in eight will have depression, whereas for women one in six experience depression and anxiety affects one in three. But only 27% of men seek help, compared to 40% of women. Jack Heath, SANE Australia chief executive offer says this is because “there are notions of masculinity and what it means to be a man that prevent them from getting help.”
“There’s a belief that the very idea of being a man is that you deal with stuff and you don’t reach out or connect. Untreated, the problem snowballs. The combination of that and the notion of having to deal with it alone, is the reason behind high suicide rates”, Jack says.
Being depressed or suffering from anxiety does not make you less “manly” or “weak”, it just makes you human. It means you have true feelings, true feelings that we all feel; just some cope with better than others.
Like that of cancer, depression is a disease. Whilst it may not have any physical markers, it’s there and it’s life threatening. My heart aches for those that suffer in silence due to the stigma society has created about mental illness. If we want to prevent further deaths of our teens who haven’t even experienced life yet, it is our responsibility as a nation to break down the stereotypes and create a public discussion where everyone feels free to contribute.
Recently Natasha Mitchell, presenter of RN’s Life Matters and an ambassador for the ABC’s mental health initiative, Mental As, questioned if we have lost the language to talk about despair. And we have. But we have the power to claim it back. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to future generations, and we owe it to the families of those who have committed suicide. We need to find a way to speak about the unmentionable.
Depression is to suicide as obesity is to diabetes, and it is killing our children. At the very least, can we please start talking about it?
As we learn about a balanced diet and safe sex in school, it is time to learn about mental illness. Knowledge is power; and hopefully the knowledge of mental health will have the power to stop tragic deaths in the future, like that of Jayden Arnold.
RIP Jayden Arnold