It happens every time a famous person commits suicide.
An outburst of shock and horror--how could something like this happen? They seemed so happy! We really need to pay more attention to mental health! Social media posts flood our timelines, encouraging people to seek help if they're struggling, and that goddamn hotline number is on every goddamn post for days.
Listen. I'm going to put this as bluntly as possible: people who are depressed and suicidal don't want to hear from a stranger that they're important and they should find a reason to live. While, in theory, the hotline is a great idea--and has helped countless people, I'm sure--that's not everyone's cup of tea.
Let me take you back about ten years or so. My parents went through a pretty messy divorce. Check out some of my older articles--I've talked about that experience pretty extensively in the past. Me, being the oldest child--and the only one old enough to understand what the hell was going on, to fully grasp just how shitty the situation was--I got thrown in the middle quite a bit. I'm 21 now and I still find myself getting thrown in the middle, but that's neither here nor there. My point is, that's a lot of stress to put on an eleven year old.
I was Pretty Fucking Depressed, for lack of a better phrasing. I remember sitting in my room for hours, just staring at a wall and feeling absolutely nothing. I would shut down pretty frequently as a way to try to escape my reality. At eleven years old, I would've been okay if I died. My mom noticed and took me to therapy for a whopping six months, until they didn't take our insurance anymore. After that, I stopped going for nine entire years.
Seriously, nine years.
Now, that's not to say that I was cured. No, not by any means. I was still Pretty Fucking Depressed. In fact, as I got older and suffered through high school, it got worse. I never actively tried to kill myself, but I thought about it quite a bit. I hurt myself quite a bit. I had no healthy coping mechanisms, because I hadn't been to a therapy session since I was 12. And, above all, I felt too ashamed to admit I needed help, even when I knew I did.
Mental health as a concept doesn't bode well with many people. Lots of people that I've encountered think therapy is a waste of time, and therapists just want to fill you with drugs and send you on your way. Lots of people I've encountered don't understand how mental illnesses like depression work--they think it's like a bad mood you can just snap out of--and they don't care to learn otherwise.
So, in short, I didn't have a strong support system I felt comfortable talking to about this. I didn't think it was okay to ask for help--I'd grown up thinking it makes you weak, and that if I want to die I'm ungrateful and maybe I don't deserve the life I have anyways.
As I got older, I've made friends who make an effort to listen--but even still, I don't usually feel comfortable telling people the extent of what I'm feeling. Even this article--it's been sitting in a Word document for days because I find it difficult to admit these things sometimes, even if I do try to be vocal about mental health and fighting the stigmas associated with them.
I went back to therapy last year, after two full years of a conscious struggle with myself--should I really seek help? What if she tells me I'm fine? What if it is a waste of money? What will the people around me think?
Going back to therapy was one of the best things I ever did for myself, because I built a trusting relationship with my therapist and she let me know that she cared.
Sometimes, our friends and family can do the same.
But a stranger on the other end of the phone--a faceless voice on the other end of the receiver--probably can't. And even if they can, it took me nine years to seek help. It takes some people even longer. Some people never find the courage to seek help.
Sometimes, as friends, we need to see when our friends and loved ones are struggling, and we need to be the ones to reach out. Checking in from time to time, performing small acts of kindness, and letting them know you're available and open to listen to what they have to say can do wonders. It's amazing what being a supportive friend can do for someone.
So please, for the love of god, stop retweeting that hotline seventeen times when a celebrity dies, and start checking in on your friends. That stranger on the phone, waiting on a call that might never come through, probably won't save your friend's life--but you can.