This past week another famous person committed suicide – Chris Cornell. Chris Cornell’s wife issued a statementwhich blamed anxiety medicine for his suicide:
“Vicky Cornell, the wife of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, speculated whether his suicide was the result of taking too much of his anxiety medication.
An attorney for the Cornell family, Kirk Pasich, reiterated Vicky’s belief that an extra dosage of Ativan, an anxiety medication often employed by recovering addicts, altered Chris Cornell’s mental faculties after the Detroit show. Pasich added that the Cornell family is “disturbed at inferences that Chris knowingly and intentionally took his life.”
This is so sad – my heart goes out to his wife and family. It’s so unfortunate that these drugs are so commonly prescribed. Too many people don’t know about the risks. Here is a good article on benzodiazepines and suicide http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/869869. Benzodiazepines and alcohol can also be deadly and too many people don’t know about this danger.
I’ve read a few articles about it and have been reflecting on the thoughts written by a few bloggers. This came on a long weekend when I was working on a webinar presentation to over 275 Functional Medicine practitioners (MDs, DCs, NDs, DOs, acupuncturists, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians and nutritionists.) I was a guest panellist teaching: Bipolar Basics: 10 steps to treating bipolar disorder.
At the end of the day, mental health issues (addiction, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating issues, etc) are not simply genetic. These are multifactorial conditions that are often co-morbid. While I think it is wonderful to have “Mental Health Awareness” weeks and campaigns like Bell’s “Let’s talk”, I feel that we have to move from awareness and talking about it, do taking action and doing something about it. When I was first diagnosed with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder type 1 in 1987 (after many years of being secretive and in denial about my eating disorder), there was no conversation going on about mental illness in the public domain. None. There was only silence and stigma. While I am delighted to see the emergence of awareness in the last decade, we have to move into the next phase. Mental illness and addiction issues are, in my opinion, a silent epidemic that is a public health crisis. With rising rates of drug (fentanyl) overdoses and suicide rates on the rise, what action can we all take to help?
Is there a phone call to a co-worker you can make? Is there a helping hand to a cousin that you can offer? Is there a donation you can make? Is there a member of parliament you can write who will be open to allowing naturopathic doctors to be a part of the mental health discussion? What I have chosen to do is dedicate my career to helping those with mental health issues. I see many patients for free because they simply can’t afford to pay for my services and while I would like to see everyone for free, I am unable to do so.
Here are some of the action steps I have taken to extend my reach beyond my clinical practice in order to help those suffering with mental dis-ease: Since losing Matt (my friends cousin) to suicide in 1998 and witnessing the crisis that suicide leaves in its wake, I have chosen to be more public about my mental health struggles. Back in 1998, I couldn’t even reach my hand across the dinner table to Matt and offer support. At that time, I was stuck in the stigma and shame of my mental illness. What I didn’t get a chance to share with him is that I get it. I understand. I’ve been there. Really, truly been there as four years prior, I had tried to commit suicide. I wanted him to know that this too shall pass. It feels dark and deep because it is… in this moment. But you can heal. The sun will come out from behind the clouds. The loss of Matt opened my eyes to the impact suicide has on one’s loved ones. While this memory became faint for me in subsequent suicide attempts, I now have a broader spiritual understanding as to why I am still here with you on the planet which I share in my upcoming books: Beyond the Label: Achieving Mental Wellness with Naturopathic Medicine and The Essential Diet; Eating for Mental Well-being.
I have developed a 10 week course and retreat to train other physicians in the framework I use to effectively and safely guide patients to mental freedom. This course incorporates not only a naturopathic principles and philosophy, but is a culmination of over 30 years of counselling work and training that I have done both personally and professionally. In addition to my ND training, I have training in 5 types of counselling: Compassion Focused Therapy, Gestalt psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Integrative reprogramming technique and Mindfulness based therapy. Proceeds from the books and courses go towards a mental health scholarship at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
My goal is to save as many souls from suicide. It has been said that by the year 2030, one person will commit suicide every second, globally – which is a startingly statistic that I want to change. Most patients with mental illness are at war with themselves and our role is to stop the battle and guide patients to inner peace. I remind patients that you are with you the longest, so it is vital that you get the relationship right with yourself first before seeking love from another. It is often difficult to have a healthy loving relationship with someone else when we don’t love and accept ourselves first. We need to do more than simply support the physical level with pharmaceuticals or supplements/herbs – we need to address the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of lives. We need to start teaching this in school. By looking at all aspects of our lives, we will find the answers – the missing pieces of the puzzle – that will provide solutions to suicide. Deaths like this just strengthen my resolve to get the mental health nutrition message out (as well as the importance of the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of health) so people don’t feel they need these drugs and know there are other options (ie naturopathic medicine)! When Robin Williams committed suicide, I wrote this poem:
Open. See. Feel. Believe. Change.
Open your mind
Open your eyes
Open your heart
To the belief that change can happen
See in your mind
See in your eyes
See in your heart
The change happening
Feel through your mind
Feel through your eyes
Feel through your heart
A change in belief
Open. See. Feel. Believe. Change.
If you know someone that is suffering, please call them today. They may not answer, they may not call you back. Try again. And then try again.