It’s important to discuss hard feelings. Shirt: Kinship Goods
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. It’s a topic that literally hits close to home.
My county has the highest suicide rate in the state of Texas, my town is at the epicenter of it, unfortunately. In the midst of a beautiful affluent suburb dark shadows loom.
When I was in high school we lost one student to suicide and another to overdose, and that was just in my grade. Since then things have gotten worse as many more students from area high schools and many recent graduates have also died by suicide.
The community, however, is finally beginning to wake up to the mental health crisis among its teens and young adults. Churches and schools are partnering together to try to bring this issue more out into the open.
While progress is certainly being made here and around the world in ending the stigma of mental health we still have a long way to go. Each of us has to confront the attitudes we hold towards mental health conditions and make sure that we ourselves are not part of the problem. The truth is that many people who contribute to the stigma, do so without realizing it. Those people should not be condemned but instead, we should try to reach out and explain the importance of mental health.
I realize that while now I like to consider myself an advocate for mental health when I was younger I too held many misconceptions about it.
My sophomore of high school, the student who died by suicide was in one of my classes. I didn’t know him really but with the shock of his death, I felt that going to his funeral would be a sign of respect. The funeral was well attended. During the funeral, people spoke about his interests and talents. The screen showed a slideshow detailing his short life. He was only 15.
Rather than granting me more understanding I found that at the time it made me angry. Here was a kid who had an entire life before him, with a family who loved him. The pictures of his families trips to Disney, Halloweens, Christmases and birthdays all seem to tell a story of a happy life. I couldn’t understand why he would do this “to his family and friends.” It wasn’t really until several years later when I found myself in the midst of a crippling depression that I began to understand.
People who die by suicide do not do it to harm other people. They are so desperate to escape a level of misery few understand that they lose hope in any other option.
Personally, for me, the depression didn’t really come with thoughts of suicide for the most part. Shortly after I started an antidepressant medication for the first time, however, I found out I failed a class. As a very serious student, this was an absolute humiliation. In that moment it felt as though my life was basically over, as ridiculous as that sounds now. While those thoughts were short lived, interrupted by a caring friend, having them was terrifying. It is hard to explain what it feels like to have thoughts you have no control over that interrupt and take over everything. For me, they only lasted a few minutes but there are many people who live with these kinds of thoughts constantly.
In the time I’ve been talking more openly about my mental health I have had more than a few friends confess to me their own struggles with mental health. Several of those friends have even made a suicide attempt.
The thought still makes me angry. This anger though is redirected at the ugly monsters of mental health conditions rather than the person who is suffering with them. People suffering from mental health conditions or thoughts of suicide deserve our love, support, and help. The more we normalize this discussion the more likely people are to seek help when they need it.
This September, national suicide prevention month I urge you to examine your attitudes surrounding mental health and suicide. I also would encourage you to read about mental health conditions. Bettering your understanding can help defeat stigma. Also don’t be afraid to talk about these issues with your friends and family. Ask them about their thoughts and feelings. Listen to people when they speak about these issues. Both my lived experiences and hearing the experiences of my friends has helped me to better understand mental health.
shirt: Kinship Goods
Before I sign off I will also say that if you need help please reach out. Please call 18002738255. You are valuable and the world needs you. Please stay.