Mental Health and Suicide Prevention by Christine Pajarillo, Behavioral Health Director

  • November 11, 2016

There are still many myths floating around about mental health and mental illness.  In relation to social stigma, attitudes toward people with mental health problems are widespread and commonly focus on the meltdowns, mass shootings, and overdoses – the worst-case scenarios.   The World Health Organization’s definition of mental health is refreshingly positive: “Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.   Contrary to popular belief, having good mental health isn’t about being happy 24 hours a day or having a completely stress-free life.  People who are mentally healthy are equipped to handle many of life’s curve balls that come their way. They have learned healthy ways to cope with the stress and problems that are a normal part of life.

The Mayo Clinic warns that a mental health concern can worsen and become a mental illness when signs and symptoms become frequent and impair one’s ability to function.  Although there are daily images portrayed in the media of the worst-case scenarios of untreated or undiagnosed mental illness, it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions succeed at leading fulfilling lives.

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the U.S.   Depression, like mental health, is commonly misunderstood. Depression goes untreated and undiagnosed so often due to the common misperception that sadness and depression are the same thing.   It is important to distinguish that sadness and depression are different.   Sadness is a feeling, a painful emotion, and a normal response to an event or difficult experience.  Depression is an illness that can be debilitating and life-threatening if gone untreated.

Symptoms of depression vary among individuals, but  include:  persistent sadness or “empty” mood; hopelessness; irritability; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness; loss of interest in activities; decreased energy; difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; difficulty falling or staying asleep, or oversleeping; changes in appetite and thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.

If you have been experiencing some of these signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression.  Depression, even the most severe cases, can be treated. The earlier that treatment can begin the more effective. Talk to your doctor or a mental health provider if you think you are depressed, or experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, please do not ignore it.  TALK TO SOMEONE.   Your doctor or mental health provider are here to help. They will not judge you; you will not been seen as weak or crazy or flawed.

The Whittier Behavioral Health Department has walk-in hours every day Monday-Friday 8:30am to 5pm.  617-989-3009 or 617-989-3224


If you cannot get to the clinic, please call the Boston Emergency Service Team at 1-800-981-4357 or the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service are available to everyone.

A note about Whittier and COVID-19

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in our area, we ask all clients and patients to call ahead before coming to any of our sites. We are working to take care of most clients/patients via phone/video encounter so we can meet your ongoing healthcare needs. This is for your safety and so we can provide the highest quality of care to you while following CDC guidance for COVID-19. Please call 617-427-1000 for any questions or concerns.

Whittier will provide COVID-19 testing from 10 am to 4 pm on Monday to Friday. Following CDC guidance, we recommend testing if you have a fever AND one of the following three symptoms: cough OR shortness of breath OR sore throat. Please bring your picture identification and your insurance card (if you have insurance).