Every year, millions of Americans suffer from a major depressive episode. Many of them are walking around in plain sight — working, going to brunch and posting memes on Instagram just like everyone else. You can’t always tell just by looking at someone whether they’re struggling with their mental health, and one body-positive activist in the U.K. wants everyone to know it.
When Milly Smith was 14 years old, she went to a doctor and told him that she felt suicidal. The doctor dismissed her and told her that she didn’t “look suicidal” — words that nearly cost her her life.
“I left feeling confused, what was I supposed to look like? A bottle of pills in one hand and a suicide note in the other?”
Milly did go on to attempt suicide multiple times, and she thought to herself as she spiraled:
“I can’t get help, I don’t look suicidal, I don’t fit the bill, they’ll laugh at me.”
To prevent others from going through the same thing, Milly started a social media campaign that shows photos of herself side-by-side. These photos are proof that there is no such thing as “looking suicidal.”
View this post on Instagram
Tw: talk of suicidal tendencies. . "You don't look suicidal"… I remember these words coming from the Dr's mouth right after I'd just told him that I was having thoughts of suicide. I remember in that moment my 14 year old self felt invalidation, dumb and embarrassed; something no one in that mindset should have to feel. I left feeling confused, what was I supposed to look like? A bottle of pills in one hand and a suicide note in the other? Those words nearly cost me my life, that judgment, those stupid stupid words. . I remember the night just last year that I spiralled and overdosed in my living room. I remember thinking to myself "I can't get help, I don't look suicidal, I don't fit the bill, they'll laugh at me". I remember thinking I must have looked the part, must have been wearing the suicidal costume properly when I woke up in Resus as all around me were concerned, worried and sad faces. By then this could have been too late, i might not have been there to see those sad faces if my partner hadn't of saved my life. . This, this is the danger of thinking mental health has a 'face',a 'look'. This is how stigma, ignorance and judgement towards mental health/suicide affects those who are poorly. . In both these photos i'm suicidal, perhaps not in the same way but on both of these days I had suicidal thoughts racing around. . Stop the judgment. Stop the stigma.
Milly has borderline personality disorder (BPD), a condition that affects her ability to regulate her emotions.
In one recent selfie, she showed how her disorder can cause her mental state to switch in a mere moment.
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This photo was taken just 7 hours before I tried to take my own life for the 3rd time. This photo was taken in the morning, we went for a walk and for some food with Eli. We laughed and enjoyed our time. That evening I took an overdose that left me in hospital for a week. . I had no idea I'd try to take my own life in the morning, I was smiling and loved the way my hair looked hence the selfie. Having BPD (undiagnosed for so long because the NHS wouldn't listen) means that my mood can switch to suicidal in seconds over the slightest trigger. . Suicidal isn't just crying, for those with a troubled life and long build ups to breaking point, it's also snap decisions made whilst your son sleeps in the same house and your loving partner kissed you goodnight hours before. . We need to learn how suicidal tendencies can present themselves beyond our ignorance to the topic. By listening and learning even the tiniest triggers/signs we can save lives. ❤️
The photo caption reads:
“Taken 7 hours before I attempted suicide. I had no idea I’d try to take my own life in the morning. I was smiling and loved the way my hair looked hence the selfie. Having BPD means that my mood can switch to suicidal in seconds over the slightest trigger.”
Milly’s photos have gained a lot of attention. They resonate with many fellow sufferers of depression, and they’re starting an important conversation about the fact that mental health goes way beyond what’s visible to the eye.
If you’re suffering from suicidal thoughts, please reach out and get help. In the United States you can call 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat online at this link.