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Tony Russell, 37, died earlier this year after a battle with depression/Contributed

We need to destigmatize mental health

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By Lucas Grayson

My friend recently died by suicide. He was 37 and an Air Force veteran. He was the funniest, kindest person I have ever met. Even when he was roasting you, he made it feel like a compliment. Even when he was struggling, he would drop everything to talk to you if you needed someone. He used comedy and poetry as outlets, making connections with everyone around him. Whether you met him once or 100 times, Tony Russell was your best friend. He cared endlessly about everyone around him, and he made everyone feel like they matter.

Tony Russell, 37, died by suicide earlier this year/Contributed

Mental illness and suicide are still very stigmatized, most of the time no one wants to talk about it. Or, if they do they get the response of some variation of “oh just be happy” when the world is that dark. That’s the last thing you want to hear. You want to hear: I am here, I love you, I support you. You want someone to sit with you as you cry or as you try to see a way out that involves staying around.

In the last two years, I have been hospitalized for mental illness and suicidal ideation three times. I have PTSD, OCD, and Bipolar Disorder, and even though I am medicated and in therapy there are still days or weeks where I don’t see a way out. I spent a long time hiding what I was going through, partially because I was ashamed of it and partially because I didn’t think anyone cared. Feeling that alone, that isolated, just makes everything worse; whether you have a good support system or not, mental illness doesn’t care. The majority of people with PTSD don’t know how to talk about what they went through, I still struggle to talk about what happened to me, and I know Tony did too.

I miss my friend, and all of my friends and family members that I have lost to suicide. 

So I will just say this: reach out to your friends, whether you are the one struggling or they are, it is important. Destigmatizng mental illness is hard, but it’s the only way we are going to help ourselves stay alive. If you need someone to talk to and you don’t feel like you have anyone, reach out to me. I don’t care if we have never met, I will talk to you. I would rather hear about your struggles than read about your death.

Where To Get Help

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Regional Crisis Line: 1 877-266-1818

Crisis Text: 741-741

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1)

Veterans Crisis text: 838-255

Deaf and hard of hearing Veterans line: 1-800-799-4889

The Trevor Project (LGBT youth ages 13-21): 866-488-7386

Trevor Project text line: text START to 678-678 

Trans Lifeline: 1 877-565-8860

Luke Grayson

About Luke Grayson

Luke Grayson is a 20-something nonbinary transperson who has been in Spokane since 2012 and is an advocate for the LGBT community and for transgender youth.
He is currently helping raise kids and trying to make schools more inclusive and accepting of transgender youth. He is also attempting to help make the local community more inclusive of both the LGB and transgender communities.
Luke is also a slam (performance) poet who went to Atlanta for National competition last year as a part of a team representing Spokane.
Luke uses he/him or they/them pronouns.

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