Just one more moment. Just one more breath. Just one more drink. If i can just make it through this night. This holiday. This crisis. This heartbreak.
Survival is getting through that moment. When the tears no longer flow and the heart I thought could not shatter any more sifts like dry sand through my fingers. The moment when the darkness completely engulfs my fantasies and search history. The culmination of all the despair, hopelessness, loneliness one could possibly imagine— concentrated in a giant mass that sits on my chest.
I imagine how, when all is said and done, you will whisper, postulate, shake your heads in shock. You ask how could I have done it. I ask how not?
Suicide is the number two cause of death of people aged 10-34 in the United States and the tenth overall. Yet when it happens it always seems to catch us off guard. I often wonder if we are really ready as a society to look at this head on for what it is. Everyone wants to talk about how something must be done but if I were to tell you that just today I had the imagined sensation of a noose around my neck, could you even handle it? Or would you uncomfortably melt into your chair, maybe even tell me “it’s really not so bad”?
We have a crisis on our hands and pervasive as it is, when it actually impacts our personal world, we react in shock and disbelief, as if these are isolated incidents because we don’t understand.
“But he has a baby” we say. “But she was so successful,” we say. “What could have possibly have been that bad?” we say.
As if selfishness were at the crux instead of agony. When reality is that treading water with no visible rescue on the horizon can make it seem like letting go is the only logical pathway to relief. To quell the ache. To make it stop. To please just make the agony stop.
I lost my grandfather to a stroke when he was relatively young. No one called him weak when he passed or wondered how he could have possibly let that happen. But I do wish he had taken better care of his health. And I wish those around him had better supported him in this.
My hope is that we can do that for those in our midsts that are struggling with their mental health.
In over 50% of death by suicide cases there is no known mental health condition, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Often people who are severely depressed and even suicidal may not realize they are dealing with a mental health condition. While it’s true that each individual must be willing to acknowledge their truth and participate in their healing, there is also an onus on us to put our discomfort aside and have the difficult conversations when we are concerned for the people we care for. We must be willing to go there.
ASK THE QUESTIONS.
According to the National Institute on Mental Health, asking an at-risk individual if they are suicidal does not increase suicidal thoughts but acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce suicidal ideation. There is further research that suggests that for those considering suicide, “connectedness” to others can create a form of protection. In fact, this research suggests that connectedness can act as a buffer helping to protect not only from attempted suicide but against hopelessness and psychological pain that can escalate to suicidal ideation.
It is up to each one of us to break the stigma. To end the silence.
In closing, I ask for us to each take a moment in memory of those we have lost to suicide. To acknowledge their pain. To respect the lives that were lived and the love that was given. And to honor those left behind.
For the healing of all.