Jackson’s daughter’s suicide attempt highlights need to talk about mental health


By - Wednesday 12th June, 2013

After the recent suicide attempt by Paris Jackson, Matt Woosnam details what Croydon is doing to help those suffering from mental health issues


Paris Jackson Suicide Atempt Michael Jackson Daughter and Depression

Paris Jackson, daughter of the late Michael Jackson. Photo by Zennie Abraham. Image used under Creative Commons License.

Paris Jackson, the daughter of deceased pop icon, Michael Jackson, was taken to hospital in the USA last week following an apparent suicide attempt, reported various news outlets.

A brief scan of the 15-year-old’s twitter feed suggested that something was amiss, with some cryptic tweets appearing on her feed, including melancholic song lyrics from The Beatles, and previously The Smiths. These tweets, alongside suggestions of self harm, appear to suggest that Jackson has been struggling to cope with her emotions.

Whether or not Ms Jackson suffers from mental health issues is unclear, but it does bring into question the likelihood of people discussing their feelings and emotions, particularly those who suffer from mental health issues. It is crucial to encourage people to talk about their emotions, and for others to step in and notice the signs of any possible emotional distress as soon as possible. Twitter and other social media sites can be a very open forum where teenagers and young people will happily make reference to their feelings, but some do so in a cryptic style arguably due to the stigma associated with talking about how we feel. This makes it difficult for people to receive help, but there is help out there in the form of trained professionals or help lines such as the Samaritans.

Social media is a great way for people to open up and find support, but it must be used in a constructive way

It is sad that often it takes a tragic event such as this to make people stand up and listen to what others have to say, to look at why they feel the way they do and how they can help. It is critical then for people to discuss how they feel before it has the potential to overwhelm them. Social media is a great way for people to open up and find support, but it must be used in a constructive way, with people encouraging openness but also the seeking of professional advice. In doing so, this helps to break down the stigma of mental health issues, as more people will see that it is OK to talk about how they feel and hopefully seek professional support.

Jackson’s troubles are not the only mental health related story to come out this week, with QI’s Stephen Fry admitting to a suicide attempt last year. Fry has been a fervent campaigner and supporter of mental health organisation MIND, and is currently its President. A frequent tweeter, Fry is not afraid to discuss his bipolar disorder and occasionally uses twitter to promote the work of mental health organisations.

Approximately 100,000 people in Croydon alone will suffer from some sort of mental health issue in any given year

It is not just on social media that the discussion around mental health continues. One group of young people has taken to their school to support people with mental health issues, whilst using social media to inform people of the facility they provide. The Talk Easy Trust is a group of students based in the Croydon area who provide peer mentoring support to other students within their schools who may be struggling to cope with events in their life. As access to information regarding mental health increases, attitudes towards people with mental health issues are slowly beginning to change as people become more aware of the realities of living with a mental health condition. Projects such as this serve only to help break down the stigma associated with talking out about how you feel.

In Love With Wilde #02

Stephen Fry, well known sufferer of mental health issues. Photo by Andy Houghton. Imaged used under Creative Commons License.

Approximately 100,000 people in Croydon alone will suffer from some sort of mental health issue in any given year, according to statistics from mental health charities such as MIND. It is likely that someone you know will be suffering from a mental health issue, so it is important to let them know that should they want to talk, it is OK to do so.

The Government proposed in late 2012 to cut funding for mental health services in Croydon by £150,000 whilst a local youth service had its funding slashed by £140,000

Indeed, Croydon has a strong link to mental health as Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, recently introduced a Private Members Bill to Parliament regarding mental health discrimination. The Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013 received royal assent and was passed into law on February 23rd of this year. This act ensures that discrimination within both the public and private sectors is less prevalent through the repealing of previous provisions in the Act. Furthermore, the local government supports Time To Change, the largest movement to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.

Whilst it is crucial for people to seek support, and there are local services in the area which include the Samaritans Walk In Centre on Kidderminster Road in West Croydon, funding cuts may hit local services hard. The government proposed in late 2012 to cut funding for mental health services in Croydon by £150,000, and a local youth service had its funding slashed by £140,000. This may have an impact on the type of service and quality of service that can be provided, and the cuts to the youth service may find younger people struggling to fill their time and focus their energy on something worthwhile, potentially increasing the likelihood of mental health issues developing.

Mental health is something which we all have, and mental ill health is frequent, just as physical health is. Why then, are the two seen so differently by people? Perhaps it is because of outdated attitudes and beliefs. If people can talk about a broken bone in their body and not be judged, then why should people be judged should they “break” their minds? Physical and mental health should be seen as equal, and the apparent suicide attempt of Paris Jackson brings the discussion and debate surrounding mental health to the fore once again.

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam is a Kingston University student in his final year as a Politics & International Relations undergraduate. A campaigner on mental health he is the founder of @Talk_Out, as well as part of the TalkEasyTrust, and seeks to break down stigma by encouraging talking out. Matt is also an avid Crystal Palace fan and the online editor of Five Year Plan Fanzine, as well as a regular contributor to the Croydon Guardian.

More Posts