May is Mental Health Month, and for many who suffer from mental health conditions, suicide is a very real part of their lives. Here is my effort to help spread awareness about a subject that is very personal to me.
We all know it’s going to happen eventually: we all die. Some of us express what we want our family members to do once we are gone and some of us wish for the type of way we would want to go out of this world. Most of us, though, don’t actively contemplate our death. In fact, most of us would be completely terrified to spend our days examining the spaces we frequent to find the best methods to end it all, just as those around us would be more than a little concerned to pull up our browsing history and find endless amounts of research into the subject of death.
For some with mental illness, this is a very real part of their suffering. Even in the seemingly happiest of times, people who suffer from various mental health conditions can still have thoughts of death, or “passively suicidal.” For others, suicide may be the first conclusion that comes to mind anytime something goes awry, like the only solution to any failure regardless of the magnitude.
Even the seemingly happiest of people can have suicidal thoughts. It may be something as simple as thinking the world would be better without their presence or just wanting to disappear; it could be something as complex as pausing at the same bridge each day, and taking the time to imagine what it might be like to jump. I am certain if you went and asked my teachers in middle school or high school if they knew I frequently wished for death, they would be shocked and confused. I am also positive if you asked others in my college flute studio if they knew I frequently thought about taking my life when my (now) husband and I would fight or when I would feel the pressure of possibly not passing a performance hearing, they would say no. Even just a few months ago, my coworkers were shocked to see me leave work via ambulance with police escort, having no idea that I had a full-blown suicide plan and had gotten as far as securing the means to complete the plan.
So what can we do to impact an epidemic that can be seemingly silent and can strike without warning? First and foremost, we have to be willing to talk about it. We need to be open with those around us and let them know that suicide is not a faux pas or an off-limits topic. We need to help those most at risk understand that they can share. We also all need to be aware of the warning signs of suicide and also how to best reach out and help those who are exhibiting these red flags. Personally, I have been very lucky to have a small group of people around me who read the warning signs on me and made efforts to engage or help me. If you know someone who is suffering from mental illness and are afraid they are suicidal, even asking a simple question like “Are you safe?” can make a difference. We all need to start the conversations though to help reduce the stigmas of mental illness and suicide; it all begins with us.
If you or someone you know is suicidal, there are resources out there to help and you can find a listing of them here.
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