Yesterday, I talked about the light and the shadows that are involved in mental health. And in the deepest, darkest shadow is the thing that is stigmatized the most in my opinion: suicide. We don’t want to talk about the darkness of someone dying by their own hand. Yet not talking about it doesn’t prevent suicide. Talking about it, reducing the stigma, dragging the conversation kicking and screaming out of the shadows if necessary, that is the first step to preventing suicide. And as this is Suicide Prevention Month, that is what I plan to do.
So lets talk about it. First, there is one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding suicide, which is that suicidal people want to die. In most cases, they don’t. They simply don’t want to live trapped in the darkness, trapped in the pain, pain that they don’t see getting better. And in the worst case scenario, those people see no way out because they don’t know that there are people out there they can talk to.
And suicidal people can look perfectly content. They can smile and say that everything is okay. As I’ve said before, the demons of depression are great as hiding the darkness from others, further isolating those who might be suffering in silence.
For me, I’ve never been actively suicidal, but there was a time in high school when I didn’t think anyone truly cared about me, when I didn’t think anyone would miss me. And the scary thing about suicidality, whether it is active or passive, is that it starts to normalize that thinking to the point that you don’t realize how fucked up it is that you are having academic debates in your own head about the best way to die by suicide. Because that is where I was. And it could have very easily snowballed from there. I am incredibly lucky that I had the right people in my life at the right time and was able to get help.
And I came very close to becoming actively suicidal. There was a time when I wasn’t taking care of myself, where I wasn’t caring at all about my health or well being. Sometimes I still expect those days to catch up with me, the old darkness to return. And that is truly terrifying.
Because the horror of suicidality is that it is our own minds that turn against us in such a deadly way. It is the tragedy of suicidality that a simple kind word or gesture from someone could literally save a life and in yet we still don’t fucking talk about. It becomes a talking point when a celebrity dies by suicide, but even then the conversation is so often about how no one could have seen this coming. Except that isn’t true, it is just what we tell ourselves.
There are warning signs to suicide. Yet we as a society close our eyes to them. We don’t have these conversations even though it is these very conversations that can bring people out of the darkness and into the light and can literally save lives and we still don’t fucking have these conversations.
And I’m sorry for all the f – bombs, but it is exhausting to see the same cycle repeat itself over and over. Suicide rates have been slowly rising over the past couple of decades. Some say mental illness is the byproduct of living in a way that we weren’t meant to. Personally, I think some of the rise in suicide is caused by a world that is increasingly more connected while at the same time being more isolated, more-self absorbed, and less concerned about our neighbors and our co-workers.
It is an exhausting thing to talk about. It is a scary thing to talk about. It can be down right heartbreaking to talk about.
But we need to talk about it. So please, lets talk about suicide.