Suicide Prevention Can't Start And End With Suicide Prevention Week

Suicide Prevention Can't Start And End With Suicide Prevention Week

Your fight is just as relevant now as it was last week.

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One of the consistent mistakes I've made throughout my life is assuming I know how to help others with mental illness because I myself struggle with a depression disorder.

In reality, living with a disease is really only part of the battle when it comes to understanding it. For me, I've found that deeper education and conversation with professionals and others who struggle has led me to a more holistic, appropriate comprehension.

Even after all this education, I often find myself at a loss for words when trying to offer support and encouragement...but a week after Suicide Prevention Week, I want to at least try:

I know it sucks that awareness for the diseases you're fighting only comes up during "special" weeks or months out of the year. It sucks that when we personally share our struggles with others it, almost by default, feels like we are burdening people, bringing just "another thing" into someone else's (probably already) stressful and complex life.

This is a lie: not because it is 100% false, but because it will lead to death.

There is a piece of Scripture that I think will be helpful in my invitation to discuss our deeper temptations and struggles. If you are reading this and would not identify as a Christian, I want you to know that I love and value you and that I intend for this example to be (hopefully) empowering to you, as well.

There's a story at the very beginning of the Bible, where God has made a very good, life-flourishing world, and has appointed these cool creatures called humans to partner with Him in continuing spread this state of life flourishing "very goodness" to the entire world.

God gives them this power as His partners, but He warns them to trust in His wisdom and definition of good and bad. By trusting in Him, the humans can help cultivate the same "very-goodness", because it's on God's terms, whereas if the humans choose to redefine good and evil to what they want, God warns them that by doing so they "will surely die" (Genesis 2:17, NIV).

But while humanity is alone together (represented by two characters that portray two biological "halves" of humanity), it becomes tempted by this slippery serpent, a character that does nothing but tempts and accuses in order for humanity to make the wrong choice. The serpent continues to talk to the woman, who makes the wrong choice of not trusting God, symbolized by defining fruit God told them not to eat as "good," before the man, "who was with her," also took and ate some (Genesis 3:6, NIV).

My point is this: what if the man and woman opened up to and consulted with each other because choosing whether to make the wrong choice, a choice that meant that they would "surely die"? I know, it's silly to play hypothetical with an ancient, Jewish oral narrative, but in reality, we live out this situation every day.

Every day, we face those same thoughts: thoughts of accusation and temptation.

It's the voice that tells us not to share our struggles, it's the voice that belittles us and makes us think that we are weak for fighting mental illnesses, it's the voice that tempts us with the dangerous idea of suicide.

As a follower of Jesus, I know that calling out, naming, and vocalizing struggle with this "voice" of temptation is a true step in the right direction, a direction that, instead of surely dying, offers me true life. A Jesus follower, often referred to as the Apostle Paul, wrote to a letter to a church, and in it, he pleaded with the community to "carry each other's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2, NIV).

Inviting others into your area of temptation and hurt, to expose the voice that accuses you and belittles you, that is exactly what God defines as "good," and fulfills keeping in step with how He created us to live: sharing our struggles in a community.

If you feel that sharing your struggles with mental illness will be met with people laughing at you or seeing less of you: they are not living as humans are supposed to live, they are ignoring true good and evil, and are themselves buying into the temptations in their head to accuse and hurt others.

I beg of you not to listen to these people's words, or give their accusations and attitudes any weight. Instead, seek and open up to those willing to listen. It may take a few tries to find those people, but I promise you it is worth it.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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10 Ways In Which I Have Dealt With Losing A Friend To Suicide

December 8, 2017 was a day my world became a little darker.

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Just your normal Friday evening, it was snowing, and my classes were done for the semester. I was on the third floor of our campus library. When all of a sudden I got a dreaded email. He was gone. The guy who although I only knew him for a couple weeks came to the back of the bus to come talk to me while I rode to my piano class. I would be lying if I told you that I have been okay physically, emotionally, and/or mentally since that day. But here are some things I have learned to ensure I am healthy during this tough season.

1. Understanding the situation

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This is the first time that I have really lost someone close to me in a pretty traumatic way. The feeling of shock and grief can be pretty overwhelming. Sitting with those feelings can be really uncomfortable but are 100% necessary.

2. Realize that no two people experience loss in the same way 

I think the hardest thing for me has been looking at others who were also close to him, much closer than I was, and thinking that they have their life together and are not having the type of bad days I am experiencing. I have to constantly remind myself that people go through different stages of grief at different speeds, and there is no "right way" of showing how much you are hurting.

3. Acknowledge that this situation is unique

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Losing a friend or loved one is never easy. However, when you lose someone to suicide as I did, it can feel different from other types of loss. Several circumstances such as the stigma around this issue can make death by suicide different, making the healing process more challenging.

4. Fight the stigma

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Stigma around mental health and suicide have been a problem in our society recently, and as a pre-health profession major, I have worked to the best of my ability to break that stigma down to the ground.

5. Understand that there can be risks for survivors (AKA me)

People who have recently experienced a loss by suicide are at increased risk of having suicidal thoughts themselves. After experiencing the loss of a loved one, it's not uncommon to wish you were dead or to feel like the pain is unbearable. Remember that having suicidal thoughts does not mean that you will act on them. These feelings and thoughts will likely decrease over time, but if you find them too intense, or if you're considering putting your thoughts into action, seek support from a mental health professional.

6. Find support 

It's very important to find people in your life who are good listeners so that you can turn to someone when you need extra support. You may find it helpful to talk to a friend, family member, mental health professional, or spiritual advisor.

7. Stay present 

Take each moment as it comes. That way, you can better accept whatever you're feeling and be able to respond in the way that is most helpful to you. I personally benefit from calling my best friend. Some people find journaling helpful to let go of your thoughts for now.

8. Find time and space for yourself to grieve BUT don't allow yourself to be in that space for very long 

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Acknowledging your experiences is necessary. Whether it's talking about it with a friend, journaling, or just sitting with your thoughts in private. Just make sure you leave enough time to do something pleasantly distracting from time to time. Social events or pleasant activities can provide relaxation and distraction. Laughter heals the soul.

9. It's OK to cry

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Just because I just said to schedule fun activities doesn't mean that you should bottle up feelings for that time. It's okay to have those emotional breakdowns once in a while.

10. Have an accountability partner 

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With the one year anniversary coming up with my friend, I have already brought in two of my really good friends into my life that have promised to check up on me all week to make sure I am balancing feelings with living my life. Find that someone or two that will walk with you during this difficult season.

To anyone reading this article and has gone through a similar struggle with losing a friend to suicide, know that I know how it feels, and I am here for you. Life may seem unbearable right now but it will get better. Probably not today or tomorrow, and in my case, not a year later. But believe it or not, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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