I saw Greg again this morning. Today he was rather anxious and depressed. Apparently his schizophrenia has led to another round of rejection by recent friends. “I am broken and there is no hope.” The self disgust seems palpable on this visit. While suicide is not overtly endorsed, I can see the loss behind his eyes. To have a brain disease handicapping one’s ability to create and maintain appropriate social functioning while preserving awareness seems one of the most perverse of diseases. No wonder someone like Greg has a higher risk of suicide.
Suicide takes as many lives each year as breast cancer. I was shocked when I first heard this. I am in awe of the awareness our society has for breast cancer. The enthusiasm for walks and fundraisers and the social networks that rally behind loved ones suffering creates a circle of support that facilitates coping. We have little social awareness for suicide by comparison. Aggression against the self is a prominent concern in mental health. From self destructive behavior, to self harm, to frank suicide. News media seems quick to highlight mental health concerns in those engaged in aggression towards others. Far more often, though, it is a silent aggression directed inward. Sometimes it is only obvious after a person takes their own life. This is frequently in relation to persistent struggle with isolation and rejection. I wish our culture was more sensitive and aware of these needs and the deep psychological pain that comes from isolation. Perhaps someday we will see more ribbons, fundraisers and marches for mental health.
Founder and Clinical Director
Dr. Reuben Sutter is the founder and Medical Director for Sage Neuroscience Center. He is board-certified in general adult psychiatry and addiction medicine. He is also the past president of the psychiatric Medical Association of New Mexico. His practice focus includes severe mental illness, substance use disorders, and treatment-resistant depression. He supervises the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation service and assists in the ketamine clinic. These both focus on treatment-resistant depression.