The Uphill Climb to Defeating Stigma

So I’m buying a house, if any of you follow me on twitter you’ll know I am buying a house. You ask what does that have to do with defeating stigma well this, part of the process when you see your mortgage broker or adviser is life insurance. Meaning that if something happened to one of us the mortgage is covered and the survivor wouldn’t need to struggle paying it on their own. Great I thought we’ll have us some of that, just in case, you know it makes sense, seems like a sensible thing to do. Except for me currently it’s not that easy see the insurance company won’t insure me…. Why you ask?

Well you need to fill in a survey for them to decide if they can cover you, there is a question innocently waiting to trip you up… Have you in the last x years ever thought about or attempted suicide? Well we all know my medical history with my mental health by now so it probably isn’t a surprise I ticked the yes box because I have had thoughts of suicide less than 2 years ago. Then I get a difficult call from my mortgage broker telling me that I’d been declined for life cover; I simply asked ‘was it the mental health side of things?’ She went back, checked and then had to explain to me that the insurer admitted to her that they do not distinguish between suicidal thoughts and suicidal actions and that they consider them equally a high risk.

Wrong and wrong so very wrong

  1. Let’s be clear here suicidal thoughts and acts are two very different things I may think about ending it but that does not mean for one instance that I will. To assume that is to not understand the complexities of mental health and suicidal feelings.
  2. I’m sorry but neither of those make you a risk, that just is degrading I am as at risk of getting hit by a bus as ending it. More to the point what if I had attempted it to automatically assume that makes me more of a risk than someone else is just damaging and perpetuates the stigmas surrounding mental health.
  3. The time frame they asked I think was the last 3 or 5 years so I have suicidal thoughts nearly 2 years ago myself, thank you for thinking that all the work I have done to improve my wellbeing is nothing. Thank you for putting me in the same box as you would have done at my worse. Thank you for deciding what makes me a risk without understanding the nuances of my mental health.

This morning I went on Mind’s website to read their definitions of suicidal feeling you can find it here in their A-Z Mental Health according to their website:

 “Suicide is the act of intentionally taking your own life. Suicidal feelings can range from being preoccupied by abstract thoughts about ending your life, or feeling that people would be better off without you, to thinking about methods of suicide, or making clear plans to take your own life.”

See there is an ever so slight distinction in those two lines, we all know what the act of suicide is but feeling can range as the next line shows, and those feelings do not automatically equate to a suicide attempt. Now do not get me wrong I know from experience that those feelings can easily become an attempt, but to assume that and to figure either way we are a risk is damaging and irresponsible.

Some other key comments from Mind’s website on suicidal thoughts are as follows:

“Everyone’s experience of suicidal feelings is unique to them. You might feel unable to cope with the enduring difficult feelings you are experiencing. You may feel less like you want to die and more like you cannot go on living the life you have.”

See that line there? It isn’t as straight forward as always feeling like ending it, sometimes it’s more about feeling that you just can’t keep putting one foot in front of the other, is that different? Well in a lot of ways yes. You see there are so many nuances and complex emotions involved in mental health and a bundle approach to handling all is very dangerous.

Finally I would like to share this comment from Mind’s website:

“Suicidal feelings can be overwhelming. How long these feelings last differs for everyone. It is common to feel as if you’ll never be happy or hopeful again. But with support and self-help, the majority of people who have felt suicidal go on to live fulfilling lives.”

Apparently the insurance company in question doesn’t seem to think this; to them I am as much of a risk as I was at my worst 18 months – 2 years ago. Thanks, because you know what that takes away from me? All the hard work I have done to do exactly what that statement above says, to go on to live a fulfilling life. It removes from me the pride I have in working so damn hard to focus on my wellbeing  and to put my mental health first, damaging, disgusting and downright hurtful approach to dealing with a sensitive subject.

Another outcome is today when talking to my partner about him seeking help for his own mental health issues was that he said the experience I’d had makes him nervous to seek help. He simply doesn’t want to be black listed as a risk because he took the stand to support his own wellbeing and mental health because in essence that is what this is. By being strong enough to stand up and say ‘Yes I have Mental Health Issues’ I am now an insurance risk, way to go with all the talk in modern society of ending stigma to you know make me feel like a stigma, but I wouldn’t insure my life with your company if you paid me now.


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