Saying the 2020 election is over-politicized is an understatement. It’s messy, it’s hard to understand, and there’s been a recent trend in this country of politicizing issues that should not be. Gay marriage, transgender medical protections, and even wearing a mask have become political issues that politicians have integrated into their base. Suicide prevention is no different. Trump’s campaign offers no plans for post-potential-reelection, no medical or mental health plans for the healthcare sector. Instead, Trump has a list of “accomplishments” he’s “achieved” in the healthcare sector. Joe Biden, on the other hand, does have a plan for making mental health care more accessible.
Matthew Luppino, an award-winning filmmaker based in Windsor, Ontario, has experience with raising mental health awareness and how it has become a politicized issue. Luppino wrote, starred in, and directed the award-winning short film H.O.P.E. (Hold. On. Pain. Ends.) in 2019, which the Canadian Mental Health Association premiered. H.O.P.E. (Hold. On. Pain. Ends.) is about Luppino’s personal journey with mental health and how he conquered his depression.
In honor of September being Suicide Prevention Month, Political Awareness interviewed Luppino about his journey through the Coronavirus pandemic and the politicization of mental health care.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a lot of things on hold in politics, Hollywood, and the music industry; and its ripple effects have extended to everyone. Luppino was no different. “I have no projects right now, I’m getting married in a couple weeks so everything’s been about the wedding…A year ago on the sixth (of September) was when I released H.O.P.E. (Hold. On. Pain. Ends.). So, I plan on just doing a nice repost and bringing some more awareness to that.”
2016 and 2017 were crucial years for Luppino’s mental health. “I had my close calls with suicide and I was hospitalized twice and diagnosed manic bi-polar.” H.O.P.E. (Hold. On. Pain. Ends.) came out in 2019 when Luppino was having similar experiences as he was in 2016 and ‘17. “I wanted to show [like] when you’re in that mental state you have blinders on. And you really can’t see the other side of things. And so I said, ‘What if you can see the other side?’ And take it from the other perspective of people who don’t understand mental health, show them what it’s like to be like in that perspective.”
Luppino didn’t only make H.O.P.E. (Hold. On. Pain. Ends) for himself. Luppino created a film that raises awareness about suicide and depression resources. He did this by having the Canadian Mental Health Association host the premiere. “They take it more serious if there’s an actual organization associated with it…We just marketed it together, we just kind of promoted each other.” Not only did it allow the film to be taken more seriously, it also provided a wider audience than would have normally been available.
As mentioned earlier, the United States is facing an election where two parties are presenting two wildly different options when it comes to mental healthcare. “Mental health should be across the board. It shouldn’t be to get a vote.” The politicization of these issues reinforces the preconceived stigmas of those who have mental health issues by giving power to one political party to control the public’s perception of these issues. “I know the stigma is still there. I know that it’s getting better than it was even a couple years ago, but I feel like in some regards it’s worse. And what I mean by that is I think that society and just people in general are overly sensitive nowadays. And like something so [so] small that most people wouldn’t really think is a big deal, people blow it out of proportion. And that also affects mental health.”
Stigmas against people with mental disorders derive from a variety of places. treatmentandadvocycenter.org attributes a good amount of it to the media coverage of people with mental health issues committing crimes. “I felt it, and I’m very open about what I am. Like, if I don’t talk about it in my films, I write about it in my songs. So, I’m very open to what I go through in life. And even I felt like, out of place and not comfortable in my own skin.” Luppino expresses himself through multiple creative outlets. His latest song, “Ink Stains” can be found on his YouTube channel, along with all of his other songs and films.
Mental health and self care starts young. And in Canada, services such as therapy are provided for free in Canada up until the age of 25. Health insurances and benefits cover mental health after the age of 25, but there’s a movement to change that to cover past the age of 25. In the United States, these services are not available for free in any capacity. With that being said, here are some statistics on suicide rates in Canada (~4,000/yr) and the United States (~48,000/yr).
Self care during the pandemic has become extremely crucial to surviving these trying times. It’s even more important for children who are in critical stages of development. A popular theory for the critical stages of development is Erikson’s Stages of Development theory. verywellmind.com has a great in-depth walkthrough of these stages. An essential part of Erikson’s theory is if you can’t properly progress to the next stage, you’ll get stuck in the stage you couldn’t get past. Kids developing throughout the pandemic may not be able to progress. Modernized versions of Erikson’s theory say that you can progress through stages you get stuck in later in life. “These kids are gonna be running the country and the world one day and they’re gonna be socially awkward to say the least. And it’s just affecting their mental health.”
Luppino will continue to express himself creatively throughout the pandemic, along with many others who have discovered new hobbies, begun their creative processes for the first time, and who have taken time for self-care in this surplus of free time that the world seems to be experiencing. It’s important to take care of yourself and reach out if you ever need it. Suicide prevention resources are provided below.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline (U.S.):
Available 24/7/365 in English and Spanish
Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CA):
Available 24/7/365 in English
*For Quebec residents
Call: 1-886-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
Available 24/7/365 in French