AMBER LOVE 31-JULY-2014 [TRIGGER WARNING: SELF HARM] I have never been a scholar of language, but like all American kids, I had this generic class called “ENGLISH” every year which basically started as spelling and grammar, morphed to creative writing, and eventually by high school became English Literature studies. Semantics and word play are interesting to me, but extraordinarily challenging. I often ask people, especially online, to clarify what they are saying and I feel stupid as someone born into the English language every time this happens.
There are phrases that bother me greatly. I often rant on Twitter about my gut-wrenching disdain for the term “wife beater” used to describe a shirt for people too insensitive to describe it any other way. That’s a whole big argument I’ll save for later or keep on Twitter. That’s just one example.
There is also this medical phrase “preventable disease” or sometimes seen as “preventable illness.” It has an implication that people want something like lung cancer so they smoke too much; or they want heart failure and diabetes so they purposely eat too much of the wrong food. Yesterday, I saw it again as I have before pertaining to mental illness when an article provided by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine referred to suicide as a preventable illness.
If this stuff was entirely preventable we wouldn’t have cases of it day after day, would we? There’s no vaccine for lung cancer. No vaccine for diabetes or heart disease. No vaccine for suicide.
There are vaccines for polio, measles, mumps, rubella, HPV and others. There is no vaccine for mental illness that has suicidal thoughts as a symptom. Calling these diseases “preventable” stigmatizes them further than they already are. People aren’t asking to be depressed. It’s not desirable nor romantic.
That article from Hopkins is interesting because it identifies the SKA2 gene as a possible culprit for housing suicidal thoughts:
“We have found a gene that we think could be really important for consistently identifying a range of behaviors from suicidal thoughts to attempts to completions,” Kaminsky says. “We need to study this in a larger sample but we believe that we might be able to monitor the blood to identify those at risk of suicide.” ~ study leader Zachary Kaminsky, Ph.D.
Let’s put on our thinking caps and brainstorm scenarios that could happen if SKA2 is really responsible for suicidal thoughts:
- Genetic therapy to somehow inhibit it
- Surgery of some kind
- More targeted ECT
- Drugs, drugs, and more drugs
- Institutionalization if you test positive
Substance abusers with vehicular offenses can be forced into rehab removing them for the decision-making process about their addiction. Can the same thing happen to an adult with a mental illness? Can some Superior Court Judge force you to follow some defined treatment plan? Seems absurd to me, yet this is America where women’s medical decisions can be determined by their employers not their doctors.
Suicide is unique compared to the other diseases called preventable because, like assisted death, it is something the person wants at that moment. The question arises, would the person want it if not for their mental illness? This is the foggy area of discussion where people mix up suicide seeming to be desirable and mental illness being unpredictable.
Words are important. Learning lessons from other people’s failures with words is vital. We’ve seen people fired for their words or forced out of corporate leadership because of words. We’ve watched plenty of public figures virtually burned at the stake in social media for their words.
Scrolling quickly through my Facebook feed, I spotted yet another nonsensical playbuzz quiz result. The quiz was What Kind of Mental Disorder Do You Kind of Have?
No. Really. I’m not kidding.
Imagine how it would be if there were buzz quizzes for Which Child Star Would You Molest? or Which Celebrity Wife Would You Beat? or Which Gun Are You Most Likely To Kill Your Coworkers With?