Today is #WorldSuicidePreventationDay on the 10th day of #NationalSuicideAwarenessMonth. I’ve been affected by suicide and mental health in a multitude of ways. I’ve (unfortunately) known various people who I have lost to suicide; as close to me as my 17-year old cousin to someone I attended high school with. I just learned a few hours ago that our world lost someone to suicide just a few blocks down from where I work. I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts myself and have even talked a few people out of doing it. It’s sad and it’s scary and it’s not a always a choice. There are many reasons this affects so many people. I personally suffer from generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder. I believe these are both attributed to genetics, my brain chemistry, and trauma.
It’s important to know that something doesn’t have to happen to you to have these feelings of shame, hopelessness, and darkness. It isn’t always because of the way you were raised or experiences you have been through. You can be rich or poor, famous or your average Joe. Not to say experiences, background, and DNA don’t have a huge part. But it’s important to remember that it’s like any other long term illness. There are ways to prevent it and help you get better, as well as things that can contribute greatly. For example, a diabetic can be born with diabetes or be developed over time. Once you have it, you can choose to take your medicine, eat healthy, exercise etc. But if you ignore it, it will eventually kill you. The difference is that society has decided that suicide and mental health diseases are a choice. Yes, at the end of the day suicide is a choice as the person has to actively do the horrible deed. But that person is really not the person you likely once knew. The disease has taken over and hit the point where it affects the brain’s rationale.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: until you have been there you will not truly understand. To the deep, crippling, dark space where breathing alone can be a challenge and where you legitimately believe the world would be better without you. That you’re doing everyone a favor. But you’re not.
Anytime I have these thoughts and they begin to seep in like quicksand, I have to remind myself of the pain I’ve felt and seen others go through from those I know that ended their lives. I also talk. As much as I don’t want to because I don’t want to burden anyone, I have my people that I can go to. My friends. My family. My therapist. They don’t try to “fix” me because that’s not their purpose. Their purpose is to remind me of my worth. Remind me why I’m here. How much I am loved and how to move forward. These people stand by me until these waves pass and they are the reason I am still here today. While I never wish anyone to experience this disease or be affected by it, it’s important we keep TALKING and TELLING stories.
Brene Brown said that if you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If that same petri dish is doused with empathy, it cannot survive. I believe the same goes for suicide because – like shame – it’s that dirty word that no one wants to speak about. When it is spoken about, it is often lingered by judgment and almost always some type of shame. However, when we feel heard and understood; like we’re not alone and we have support; we can help each other out of that quicksand.
This is why I will never stop speaking out against this horrific and highly under-supported and diagnosed epidemic. This lack of support is not only by people, but by the medical/insurance industry. According to a 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, out of 564,708 homeless people, 140,000 or 25 percent of these people were seriously mentally ill, and 250,000 or 45 percent had any mental illness. Sadly, I’m not surprised. Until our world starts treating this as a disease and not a choice, people will only continue to suffer. They will continue turning to cheaper options because they can’t afford therapy and a psychiatrist (which is around $100 per doctor per session on average; and that’s if you can find an insurance that covers it.) These “cheaper” options are often a quick fix so they don’t have to feel the pain and darkness. But these options aren’t healthy and often lead to even worse circumstances due to the now addiction they’ve likely developed. If our own government won’t support us in getting the help we need, how do we expect these people to get better? Like I said there are tools – healthy tools – to help, but that doesn’t mean it will always completely go away. You can’t put a bandaid on asthma, cancer, or diabetes any more than you can a mental illness and that is why they should be treated the same.
Let’s keep fighting to end the silence, eliminate the shame and stand together. Let’s Love and remind each other that no matter what society may let us think, we are enough. YOU are enough. You are more than enough. You are perfectly and uniquely made for a very specific purpose by the greatest Creator. And I promise you; if you keep talking to people, accept the help you need and have a lot of patience… you will eventually see that. See what so many of us already do. So if you or someone you know is struggling, please make that call or send that text. Start the conversation and you’ll find you’re never truly alone.