World Suicide Prevention Day is Sunday, September 10th, kicking off National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States.
According to the World Health Organization, 800,000 people commit suicide each year. That is one person every 40 seconds.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control reports that 121 Americans die by suicide every day.
And yet, suicide is 100% preventable.
So much of the problem surrounding mental illness and suicide is stigma. The stigma that says we should not talk about mental illness. The stigma that reinforces silence and shame. Where stigma exists, hope cannot, and that is part of why we lose 800,000 people each year around the world to something that is 100% preventable.
Suicide is devastating. It is difficult for everyone involved. In fact, suicide is so unimaginably painful that we avoid talking about it. If you are fortunate enough to not directly know anyone who has been suicidal or died by suicide, please imagine how heartbreaking it would be to know that someone close to you is surrounded by so much darkness that they feel things will never get better. Imagine the incredible pain people must experience to feel that the only way to end their suffering is to end their lives.
I know what it is like to feel that way. I almost took my own life. I also know what it is like to be on the other side – to watch a loved one experience the darkest thoughts one can experience. I have lost love ones to suicide.
To those who struggle with a mental illness:
I know how difficult it can be to feel numb or overwhelmed with emotions. I know what it feels like to feel worthless and unlovable. I too have felt like it would be easier to give up. It may feel like everything inside of you wants the pain to end. Please do not go. Please reach out for help. You deserve to be here. Choose to stay. Choose to fight. The pain will soon be tolerable and eventually, the pain will go away. Stay for the people that love you, for the people you love and for the people you have yet to meet. Stay for those who will need to hear the story of your strength. The world needs you. Recovery is a long, uphill, difficult battle. It's a choice you are faced with each and every day. But this is a battle you will win.
To the loved ones of those with a mental illness:
I recognize that it can be difficult to fathom how a person can feel that the only way to end their suffering is to take their own life. There are some things in life that you cannot quite understand without experiencing it firsthand. Please know that your loved one cares about you – the last thing they want is to hurt the ones they love the most. Please remember that we love you and that sometimes their illness may make that hard to see. It's easy to feel helpless when someone you love is struggling to see what you see in themselves. The best thing you can do is be there. Help your loved ones get the help they need. Ask what their needs are. When they push you away, stay. Embrace empathy, validation, compassion and patience. Love and support them unconditionally, even when it is hard. And most importantly, do not ever forget how much they love you, even when they cannot clearly show it.
People need other people. We need people to help us carry the heavy and embrace the light. We need people to support us through the losses and to celebrate the wins. Make kindness a priority. You truly never know what a person is going through.
Please remember that the fact that you are struggling does not make you a burden. It does not make you unloveable, undeserving of care, too sensitive or needy. You are human. Everyone struggles. Everyone has difficulties coping at times and we all fall apart. This does not discount your worth. You can be struggling and still be loved. You can be less than perfect and still be deserving of compassion and kindness. You are strong. You are resilient. You are you and that is more than enough.
We can make it through. We will make it through. We will choose to fight and we will choose to stay. World Suicide Prevention Day may be Sunday, and next week may be National Suicide Prevention week, but everyday should be treated as such.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Adolescent Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-621-4000
Crisis Text Line: Text HOPE to 741-741
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
The Trevor Project (specializing in gay and lesbian youth suicide prevention): 1-800-850-8078