A few weeks ago, I binge-watched 13 Reasons Why, a show based on Jay Asher’s 2007 young adult novel of the same name. When I read the novel in my sophomore year of college, the book grabbed me. While I haven’t read it since, it has remained in the back of my mind. I often thought that it was the prose and the characters, but now I have begun to realize that it was the subject matter that won’t relent.
Apart from the backlash that the show is receiving because of its portrayal of teen suicide, the headlines have also brought the difficult subject to light. Aaron Hernandez hung himself in his jail cell after being found not guilty of a murder charge. Prince Harry has come out recently discussing his own struggle with mental health and depression following his mother’s death. Prince William and Lady Gaga have begun speaking openly about mental health and how to address issues like depression, bipolar disorder, and suicide.
Suicide is everywhere. I’ve lost family members to suicide. I’ve lost friends and acquaintances. I’ve seen my own mother attempt this to escape pain. I didn’t always understand it. I grew up under the assumption that suicide was the worst mortal sin. But now in a society that almost seems to suggest that suicide is the only escape from mental health problems, what are we to do? We have begun talking, but what are we really doing to change the discourse surrounding mental health? The stigmas surrounding suicide and mental health should be long gone, but still they persist. When I share with someone that I take an anti-depressant, they get quiet and uncomfortable. There is no support, no love. However, once someone takes their own life, it’s viewed as drastic or just a way to get attention. How then can individuals suffering from mental health issues move forward when society forces them into a middle ground of suffering, shame, and uncertainty?
There are times when I can imagine loading the gun and pulling the trigger. I can feel the slice of the razor blade against my skin. I don’t know that this pain will always be there, but it haunts me every single day. I pull myself out of bed. I blame over-sleeping and turning off my alarms on the work load of school. I paint on a good face and mask my tone when I speak to my family on the phone. People I see daily don’t know my struggle, and that’s because I believe that no one would want to hear about my problems. But I’ve reached the breaking point. I’m not strong enough to pretend this war isn’t going on every single day.
I am an individual battling depression and anxiety. I contemplate suicide daily. There are times when I can move beyond the pain and try to envision the horizon. Then there are times like now when I am too weak even to pretend I am okay. I’m done hiding my mental health issues. I refuse to be subdued by the stigmas of society any longer. I’m NOT okay, and that’s okay.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, don’t turn away. Listen. If not, please share these resources and support the one’s you love.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255