So many times, too many times, I have heard a mental health professional encourage a person with suicidal thoughts to remember they are not alone. I always cringe at this prompt. Unfortunately, that’s the exact critical point, when we feel so despondent and in pain, we can’t remember we are not alone.
Even for someone that is acutely aware of suicide, like me due to the nature of my daily work, suicide awareness week is still a chance to reflect. I am reflecting on how many times in my personal and professional life I have been touched by suicide. Reflecting on how deeply I wish none of us were touched. Reflecting on how often I ask someone, “when was the last time you wanted to die” and the answer is, “I do at this moment.”
It is painful how painful life is. It is painful that some lives are so full of pain and sorrow. It is painful that so many among us feel that there is no other choice but to end the pain and suffering.
In this suicide awareness week, let us decide to reach out and build a connection with those who have too much pain and not enough support. Each of us reach out to someone. Connection sometimes feels like an option to someone that has nothing and no one. We can be that for someone else, and sometimes that is enough. It can’t be up to them to remember they are not alone – it is up to us to remind them – as we would want to be done for us.
As a culture, it is not enough to simply individually reach out to our suffering community members. We, as a community, have to reduce the stigma of mental health challenges and – more specifically – suicidal thoughts and feelings. It must become our collective mission to speak more openly about mental health, as a continuum rather than a label. To save lives and increase wellbeing – we each must do our part to speak openly and publicly about our own mental health journeys. This important responsibility falls, especially, on those of us in positions of power and privilege. This uncovering will make us all safer because it is only a matter of time before every one of us as part of this predictably painful life goes through a phase of suffering.
- Suicidality is not an us and them thing. We all suffer and at different levels at different times.
- Suicidality has nothing to do with weakness or strength and everything to do with connection and choices.
- We must reduce stigma individually, as families and systems, and fully as a culture to save lives.
- We must shift our understanding of suicidality as it is on the continuum of mental health that we are all on.
- We must increase kindness to others and check ins. People use the strangest justifications for determining their worth when they are in pain. Something we perceive as small can mean everything to another if they are suffering, both positively and negatively.
- We must teach our kids what to do when they feel low for the purposes of training self-soothing as recovery is a part of life and needs to be practiced in small doses starting early to build resiliency.