Column: Mental health conversations are always avoided, until someone passes away

With the death of Mac Miller stirring up feelings throughout social media, individuals encourage each other to “check on their friends.

Olivia Apostolovski is a freshman pre-journalism at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about social issues for The Maneater.

Anthony Bourdain. Kate Spade. Avicii. Mac Miller. Four figures that, as of this year, have passed away. They all had many things in common; they were successful, well-known in the public eye and all of them struggled, whether it was with addiction, depression or other mental health issues. If high profile individuals are not able to evade these issues, then they truly are an epidemic. College students are one of the many demographics that are affected, with the stress of being alone elevated by money issues, stress and the need to fit in.

In the recent years, suicide rates have increased drastically. According to a study posted by CDC in 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes on the rise. There are a variety of reasons why individuals may choose to take this route, some of which include relationship problems or loss, substance use/abuse and physical health problems, just to name a few.

Drug overdoses have increased rapidly as well. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 72,000 Americans died in 2017 from drug overdoses, and 30,000 of these deaths were due to fentanyl and synthetic opioids. Substance abuse often times is the result of mental issues, both of these going hand in hand. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in the past year, 20.2 million adults (8.4%) had a substance use disorder. Of these, 7.9 million people had both a mental disorder and substance use disorder.

Anthony Bourdain’s death closely followed Spade’s. He was found in his hotel room in France on June 8. He had been in France to film new episodes for his show “Parts Unknown.” According to CNN, Bourdain in his teen years had struggled with drug abuse and other issues that could have killed him when he was younger.

Kate Spade was found dead in her apartment in Manhattan on June 5, and she was 55. She was a well-known fashion designer. Spade’s husband later came forward, admitting that she had been seeking treatment for her depression. Spade also stated in an interview with The New York Times that it was “a complete shock.”

Tim Bergling, better known as Avicii, had traveled to Oman, a country located in the Arabian Peninsula, with the intent of visiting members of the royal family. He was found dead on April 20, 2018, on an estate owned by the royal family. In 2012, the artist was hospitalized with the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis as a result of heavy drinking, which was said to “calm his nerves in social situations.”

The death of Mac Miller is the most recent and still fresh in everyone’s minds. The rapper was found dead in his Studio City home on Sept. 7. He was 26. Many of my peers had grown up listening to the rapper, who made his mark with college-aged kids. His last two albums, “The Divine Feminine,” released in 2016, and “Swimming,” released in 2018, showcased a different side of the rapper, leaving many convinced that he would eventually release something mind-blowing. The rapper struggled with issues of drug abuse and depression and the cause of his death is still speculated upon, but the thought of a young artist being gone so soon is stunning for many.

The deaths of each of these individuals rocked a proverbial boat, causing individuals to take to social media, as they sent the families and loved ones of those who passed their thoughts and prayers. In the case of Mac Miller, artists and individuals have posted their words online, honoring him and the opportunities that they have been given, just because the rapper had given them a chance.

One of the conversations that emerges whenever there is a death of someone prominent in the media is the notion of “checking up on your friends.” In the most recent case of Mac Miller, he struggled with depression and drug abuse, both of which individuals tend to believe can be quelled with friends at your side, which is not necessarily the case.

This idea of checking on your friends and loved ones only when someone in the media has passed away leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Why should we have to wait until a well-known name passes away to make sure that those around us are doing okay?

“Checking on your friends” seems to be a trend that increases. The first set of words that leave people's mouths when someone passes away is that they didn’t expect it. Sending a simple text will not be enough to compel someone to seek help, or reassure them that you care enough and that you are there for them.

As college students, it is easy to get lost in everything you’re doing, it is easy to lose yourself in a school of thousands of students. It is even easier to lose friends and communication when you are working, attending classes full-time and have to squeeze in homework, eating, sleeping and working out.

The act of “checking on your friends” is thoughtful, but if they are your friends, you should be aware of what is going on in their lives and making time to help them instead of sending a text, where they have the option of not replying. There is monotony that happens when you have the same set schedule every day, but if you have a friend going through something and you know about it, make time to sit down and talk to them about it.

If talking does not solve your problem, there are resources on campus that work to help whatever is ailing individuals. The MU Counseling Center one of the many multitudes of resource centers.

Generation Z is used to solving problems over the phone, with their words typed out, thought out and pretty. However, it helps more often than not to hear what someone has to say instead of seeing what they have to say. Making extra time for your friends, checking on them when they are hurting and being there for them in person will have such a stronger effect on them than a text.

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