There has been some talk recently about making mental health a higher priority to help address the disconnection, anger and self harm (including suicide) that is starting to become one of the markers of this younger generation.

Being smaller, more relational and more community oriented, Traverse City and Northern Michigan are well positioned to approach a topic and address it as a collective. We simply need the motivation and collective intent. 

Let's pretend I just gave you a bunch of surprising and stressful numbers about teen and young adult suicide rates. It's easier that way since we have all seen them and all recognize the severity of the issue. Actually let's pretend I just showed you a chart, we like charts. 

But now let's think about who's problem this is.  To compare this, let's think about Yoga. I like yoga because while it's possibly seen by some as strange, cultish or trendy, by many it's simply seen as a personal choice in exercise.  It makes for a nice comparison.

What if suicide was most aggressively treated by attending yoga (it may actually be, but let's not worry about that now).  How would this affect the treatment rate and the view of treatment? Would more parents engage their children with yoga? Would it be okay to have yoga classes in schools and free classes at church? Wouldn't we expect that the sale of yoga pants would go up even farther?

Now let's change yoga into counseling. To me it appears that something about counseling is getting in the way of its benefits being fully accepted. 

Especially in a community of this size, we should be able to change the therapeutic culture so that it's seen as a personal choice in self-improvement instead of a last-ditch effort.  How could a community reduce the stigma much if the reality still is that once someone gets to treatment, they are pathologized and told they need lots of counseling? Again, if this were yoga, would we see the same kind of feelings about it? Wouldn't we find that people who were seeking yoga "treatment" for suicidal thoughts would be engaged and invigorated by their time there? Wouldn't we find that people would carry their yoga mats around with pride instead of hiding them in the trunk of their car.  Would we have yoga on Front St. instead of in the basement of a random commercial building on Garfield? 

We can talk about people who go to treatment with more positivity or sympathy, but wouldn't it be a lot easier to just make counseling so engaging and uplifting that it becomes more popular? Our society is already self-focused and betterment directed enough to make it a great time to increase the counseling rate.  We just have to change the way we as professionals welcome and celebrate the people that are already coming in the doors.