This past week has served as a sobering wake-up call to the state of mental illness in our country. Between the loss of Kate Spade early last week and Anthony Bourdain just three days later, both by suicide, and the release of the CDC report stating that suicide rates have risen 30 percent in the last decade, it's been a heavy week. And it's been easier than ever to feel like we're doing all of this for nothing.
That lie among others is what's costing us so many lives.
Life is really tough. And complicated. And ugly. And sometimes our brains get sick for no reason or a lot of reasons. And we get overwhelmed by our own pain and the pain of those we love so we throw in the towel. Listen to me: talking can save lives. Conversations can save lives. Questions can save lives.
We can save lives.
A lot of bad shit is happening. There's no way to sugarcoat that. People are hurting and hurting in silence. We've gotta start chipping away at that second part. We've gotta break down the walls and start checking in on our people. Asking our people if they're okay and continuing to ask again and again and again. Asking our people what we can do to help. Asking our people what they need. Asking our people if they need help.
If you need help getting those questions out, read about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's 2018 campaign and the power of awkward conversations here.
Asking the big question could be someone's liferaft—"Are you thinking about hurting yourself?"
Pay attention. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs. Send a text. Sit with them. Find resources. Walk them into counseling. Help them dial the phone. Use your story to help them believe in theirs.
We can talk about our own stories loudly and without shame. We can help the world see that mental illness and suicide are not taboo topics that belong hidden inside someone's head. We can unweave the stigma that is so ingrained in our society until people feel like they can ask for help without feeling ashamed.
We can call for legislation and governmental action that treats access to and funding for mental health care as a priority.
We can save lives. And we need to save lives. Stories do not have to keep ending like this. And we cannot keep letting them.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741, or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online here.
For Stony Brook University students, contact CAPS at (631) 632-6720 or CAPS After Hours at (855) 509-5742.
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