This morning (Friday, April 8th), Sarnia-Lambton Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu was a guest on The Talk Show on CHOK Radio. A few topics came up and her representation of some issues was probably deserving of heavy criticism. However, one moment stood out as something that goes beyond partisan politics. I wrote the following letter and sent a version of it to a local paper. (Update: Press Progress discussed her comments and the legislation in question here. )
Marilyn Gladu’s Troubling On-Air Remarks RE: Suicide + Teens
While attempting to explain her concerns regarding assisted dying legislation on CHOK’s morning talk show, MP Marilyn Gladu quipped about how “everyone’s suicidal” when they “break up with their boyfriend at 16”.
While many needs are still not being met, much effort has been made to combat the stigma and trivialization of mental illness in Canada and communities like Sarnia, through both grassroots efforts and co-operation between agencies at all three levels of government.
Comments like those Marilyn Gladu made on the live radio show undermine these efforts and endanger people of all ages.
Characterizing depression, mental illness and suicidal thoughts as something circumstantially trivial that should be ignored propagates a dangerous myth, one that commonly creates obstacles in the wellbeing and survival of individuals experiencing mental health challenges and in receiving help from their loved ones.
Furthermore, dismissing the role breakups and relationship failures can play in the mental health of teens is itself irresponsible. It makes it easier to dismiss mental illness in teens wholesale by making it all about the breakup of a relationship that we as adults don’t see as being important, and as a result, makes it easy for us to miss other important clues about young people who may really need some help.
It is also a mistake to expect that all breakups and the way they are experienced are the same for every circumstance, or to ignore them as an irrelevant inevitability of being a teenager. Sometimes there is trauma involved or the emotions can be a catalyst for larger problems.
These things are also experienced by males and people whose gender or sexual orientation might mean their relationships aren’t just about “breaking up with boyfriends”. Perpetuating the “emotional teenage girl” stereotype makes it more difficult to accept that everyone (including teenage girls) need access to mental healthcare and to have their mental health taken seriously.
It was probably not Gladu’s intent to drive these messages home, but the impact of them is important to address. We should all do everything we can to enable people to get the help they need. Being conscious of the way we talk about these things is more significant than we sometimes realize.
If you are feeling suicidal or are concerned about someone who may be, please phone:
Lambton Mental Health Crisis Service – 519-3445 or 1-800-307-4319
Distress Line – 519-336-3000 or 1-888-DISTRES.
Both of these operate 24/7.
9-1-1 is also an option for emergencies.
Note: Canadians Outside of Sarnia and Lambton area, visit http://suicideprevention.ca/thinking-about-suicide/ to find a crisis line or other vital info.
Sarnia-Lambton area Youth Walk-In Clinic:
For teens and youth who need quick access to help, St. Clair Child & Youth offer a Walk-In Therapy Clinic on Tuesdays. You can find more info at http://www.stclairchild.ca/about/clinical or phone 519-337-3701.