Why I Dread October

Disclaimer: This is not a bashing on those whom have experienced breast cancer or lost a loved one to breast cancer. My prayers and thoughts go out to those impacted. Breast cancer is real and touches a number of lives. However, if you will read this post, you will see it does not touch near as many lives as mental illness yet gets so much more attention.

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Well, it’s started…the onslaught of pink. Pink ribbon work gloves for men. A number of pink ribbon items for sale at my workplace. Pink ribbon items in EVERY mainline store you enter. Profile pictures gone pink left and right. Pink is on the football fields of all levels. The only way to NOT see pink ribbons all month (and all year) is to crawl under the blankets and never come out. All of this is done in the name of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Besides the pink, we get news stations doing special reports about survivors. We get silly status updates on Facebook that if you Like or Comment on them you are informed it is for Breast Cancer Awareness and you have to pick a similar silly status update to post. Again, it is all in the name of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very sympathetic to those whom have personally faced breast cancer, like my own sister, cousin and friends, as well as those whom have lost a loved one to this cancer. I totally understand the devastation that comes with the diagnosis, treatment and potential death faced every day for millions.

But…

It is NOT the biggest killer out there; yet, it is the biggest fundraiser. Over 500,000 more people died from heart disease than breast cancer in 2011. Deaths from breast cancer in 2011 barely outnumbered suicide by 1856. But, due to the commercialization and ‘normalization’ of breast cancer, Komen Race for the Cure raised $110.85 million more than Movember, which raises funds for prostate cancer…which, by the way, had fewer deaths than suicide.

Put a pink ribbon on it and just claim that “part” of the proceeds (often it turns out to be a very small percentage) will go towards breast cancer research and it’s a top seller. It’s “cool” to wear something with a pink ribbon and show support. If you post a ribbon with “survivor” on it on your Facebook page, you’ll likely get about 50% of your friends to Like it and probably even comment on it.

Now, let’s think back to May, Mental Health Awareness Month, and September, Suicide Prevention Month. I don’t know about you, but only a couple of my friends posted a green or yellow ribbon on their Facebook page…even after I challenged them to do so after the death by suicide of Robin Williams. I had a VERY limited choice of items to purchase to show my support…and that was only because I follow a number of pages related to these subjects. I saw NOTHING in the stores. When there was something on the news, it focused solely on the number of military veterans that take their life by suicide and not about suicide in general. There were no silly status updates to raise awareness…not that I think that’s an appropriate way to raise awareness for anything.

On April 29, I posted a blog post of mine to my timeline. It was titled, “Giving Up the Option of Suicide.” I got 7 Likes and 7 Comments…out of 359 friends and family. My sister just changed her profile picture one hour ago to a picture of a pink ribbon and the word ‘survivor’ and already has 18 Likes. On May 2, I changed my profile picture to the following and got absolutely NO Likes.

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I’ve been told more than once that it’s not always all about me. I get that. But at some point, there has to be more support for awareness about mental health and suicide.

It is a very sad fact that very few are comfortable talking about mental health issues. There is such a strong stigma that goes with it that is outlasting so many other illnesses. There was a time when it was embarrassing to talk about breast cancer. Now it is ‘the talk around town.’

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “clinical depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting more than 19 million Americans each year. This includes major depressive disorder, manic depression and dysthymia, a milder, longer-lasting form of depression.” This is JUST forms of depression. This number does not include any other form of mental illness. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, “in 2014, an estimated 232,030 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. alone.”

Last I checked, 19 million is MUCH larger than 232,030. In fact, it is almost 82 times greater.

19,000,000 > 232,030

I’ll admit, there will be some overlap because I’m sure if someone is predisposed to depression, being diagnosed with cancer would certainly push them closer to a depressive episode. But still, 82 times more people with a form of depression than invasive breast cancer and yet we are leery of talking about depression and other mental illnesses?

Stop the madness! Mental illness can be just as deadly as many other illnesses.

Next week (Oct 5-11, 2014) is Mental Illness Awareness Week.

You can find ways to spread the word on social media here: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/MIAW2014.

You can also follow Mental Health America’s campaign for B4Stage4. Part of the campaign is based on the following: “When we think about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don’t wait years to treat them. We start way before Stage 4. We begin with prevention. And when people are in the first stage of those diseases, and have a persistent cough, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar, we try immediately to reverse these symptoms.” Time to think about mental health in the same way!

Remember 19,000,000 > 232,030 and needs to be recognized year-round!

…stepping down from my soapbox…for now…

tatas

 

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22 thoughts on “Why I Dread October

  1. Working for a NAMI affiliate and with them for a number of years as a volunteer, October’s MIAW is our biggest week of the year. Our numbers are dwindling at events, but the conversation has increased. With one voice at a time, person-to-person engagement in the conversation, mental illness will get more exposure. We don’t have funds to do a huge ad campaign largely because of stigma and lack of healthcare parity, but things are changing. Have hope and keep spreading the message!

    • If I had more emotional energy, I would do more in-person awareness. Since, I don’t, I use my writing voice to spread the word. It doesn’t always come across the way I intend, primary b/c the other persons do not fully understand depression. So, I just keep telling my story.

      Thanks for your work!

  2. Awesome post!!! As the spouse of a mentally ill person (he’s bipolar), I couldn’t agree more. Mental illness is a silent killer & has done nothing but bring about fear in people because they aren’t educated.

    • My attempts to educate family and friends thus far has failed to some extent. I’ve had some comment in other places that this was essentially a personal attack on breast cancer. After considering it more, I just see it as a fact-giving post. Their comments won’t stop me. I’ll keep sharing my story and make those baby steps in awareness!

  3. Pingback: Why I Dread October | Kitt O'Malley

  4. Hi Criselda! You wrote an outstanding post and I wholeheartedly agree with EVERYTHING in it! I know it’s “not just about me” either (and yeah, I’ve gotten that vibe from some so-called “friends”) but dammit, what you address is a big deal & your points are valid and well documented. You get an A+++ from me!:)

    I learned of your blog through my friend Kitt’s reblog. Here’s what I wrote in response to your post, and while my reply *is* “all about me” & not about the very real problems surrounding mental health awareness & conflicts within the breast cancer awareness “industry”, I also think there’s another message within my comment too that is valid, which is that we each have a right to raise awareness how we see fit. I chose to create a DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) chapter in my county and run free support groups for women with bipolar, depression and anxiety. I “came out” in our county in a very visible way; I arranged interviews in all our local papers about my having postpartum bipolar disorder and creating the DBSA chapter, and more. I can’t save the world anymore – October is a month that I’ve associated with joy and celebration (my anniversary, Halloween). I chose it as the special time to focus on my recovery and stability, and if that’s considered selfish by some people, oh well! 😉

    I wish you all the best.
    take good care!!!! Dyane

    My comment on Kitt’s blog:
    “October is my FAVORITE month – I chose it to be the month for our wedding and Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. No offense to anyone, I mean it – but I do not want want to focus on serious mental health issues (which I have) or breast cancer awareness (I’ve had a lumpectomy & it was extremely traumatic; I’ve had two friends my age die from breast cancer) during my special month. I want to focus on joy and joy alone. Yeah, I may sound selfish, but I’m fine with ignoring all the causes for October, because I’ve paid the dues, I helped where I’ve been able to help others, and I can continue raise awareness in ways that I feel comfortable with!

    • I think it’s great that you’ve been able to turn October into a wonderful month for you! That is progress and healing at it’s best. Maybe one day I will not dread the pink flood and will be able to focus on more than that. In the meantime, I’ll keep telling my story to raise awareness where I can.

      • You are so sweet to respond. You know, after I wrote that I thought, “Geez – I sound so self-absorbed!” but I was still glad to “get it out” because it’s the truth. I’m not a poster child for breast cancer or mental health, I guess. I hope you won’t dread the pink flood in the years to come. It’s hard to miss, I know. I live in a more isolated place, I think ( a conservative mountain community) so it’s easier for me as I don’t see a bunch of stores with pink stuff for sale. (My husband, a former chef, does 99% of the grocery shopping, lucky me!!!!) Anyway, I’m rambling, but please know that I thought your writing was fantastic. I send you a big hug! Every time you see something pink take a big breath and remember this: “YOU ARE AWESOME!!!” 🙂

    • Please share it with your friends if you have not already…unless you feel they will not understand and might send you negative messages. I have felt this way for a number of years and not just about mental illness not get the awareness it needs. I feel the same way about AIDS and other illnesses.

      Thanks for your support!

  5. Kudos! I’m an ex-nurse who worked oncology for years, and I say things similar to what you’ve written here every October. The overfunding of breast cancer research takes money away from less-funded cancers and other diseases, including mental illness, and that is not fair. I too sympathize with those who have breast cancer and with their families, but what about others who are suffering and their families? Are they lower on the funding pyramid due solely to their illness? One disease should not be privileged over another .

    Additionally, October has become a boondoggle for retailers who don’t need more money and who often donate only 1-2% of a “pink” item’s cost to funding. And, while I’m on a roll, men get breast cancer, too. Let’s not forget them. And pink does just that; marginalizes and further embarrasses men who have the disease.

    Let’s work to raise awareness and decrease the stigma of mental illness. Think how many people that will help. And refuse to buy “pink” items and tell manufacturers why–and use Facebook, so the message gets out there. And call them out on how little they donate as well.

  6. Here’s what I think. 🙂 The first really difficult death I experienced was that of my grandma who died of breast cancer pretty young when I was 7. My husband had cancer and ultimately a bone marrow transplant when we were 19-22 or so. I spent 3yrs in a hospital nearly every day with all sorts of cancer patients. Over 10yrs later, having thought I’d dealt with the large number of death’s I’ve experienced (cancer and non) I crashed HARD CORE in 2011. I was naive. We had SO much support when my husband had cancer. I had no idea that after my first hospitalization I’d lose 90% of my friends and most of my family. After 9mo I was diagnosed with BPD and PTSD. I had NO IDEA how stigmatized especially BPD is, no idea some would blame it on me. I had no idea people who haven’t ever met me would tell me to kill myself and other things just because I have BPD. I’ve been in the hospital 9 times since I crashed, I can count on one hand the number of people who acknowledged that something had happened. I was never looking for sympathy, just shocked and hurt that so few seemed to care. Now I’m more surprised if someone DOES acknowledge it. I still don’t understand why my husbands life seemed more valuable. It really has felt like it was socially acceptable to have cancer, but if I had died as a result of suicide that was just my own fault.

    Raising awareness for an illness is great… but I don’t understand why diseases that affect larger numbers of the population don’t get more attention. The ice bucket challenge drove me insane. Yes, a great cause. But more people die from dehydration than from ALS each year. Not to mention mental illness. I just read in the paper yesterday that suicide is the second leading cause of death in the county I live in. That article received no comments, no shares…

    ANYWAY, thank you for writing about this! I’ve been to more than one funeral for a victim of suicide, more than one for a victim of cancer. I think people are aware that cancer is a problem. It seems even silly to write that. I DON’T believe people are aware of what mental illness really is. I don’t think the general population realizes that we seem to be putting less value on a large number of people’s lives.

  7. Thanks for articulating something that’s been bugging me for years. Like you, I’m sympathetic to those who have suffered from *any* kind of cancer, but can’t help but think about how just a fraction of all that money raised could put more psychiatrists in under-served areas and fund peer support groups.

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