These days, everyone’s attention is focused on coronavirus and the deep impact it has on our society. The coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone, but there is a less noticeable killer that has been lurking in our society for a long time: suicide. According to the CDC, 48,344 people died by suicide in 2018. The suicide rate has increased by 35% since 1999. What’s more, suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States. That’s why World Semicolon Day, which is today, is more important than ever.
There is one big difference between our response to coronavirus and suicide — everyone is talking about coronavirus. There are constant news stories, social media posts, and statistical updates. Even though many have been more open to talking about suicide in recent years, it took us a long time to get here and there is still a stigma for some people suffering. World Semicolon Day is not just a day for suicide survivors to celebrate — it is a day for those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts, mental illness, or the loss of a loved one to share their stories.
The Semicolon Project was founded by Amy Bleuel in 2013 as a way for those struggling to show their will to carry on. A semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended their sentence, but chose not to. It is a symbol that many find relatable for showing that their story is not over.
Many people are feeling very alone right now. Social distancing has isolated us. We can no longer hug our friends or shake hands with others. However, one thing we can all do is share our stories. We may feel that our story is just an insignificant piece in a sea full of stories. But when you put all those stories together, something amazing happens. We see that we are not alone and that we are not the only ones suffering. We all experience pain, sadness, and loss, but we also experience joy and healing. A story is not just a story — it is an opportunity to make someone feel less alone. It is an opportunity to say, “Hey, I made it through this and you can too.”
I will share my story to encourage you to share yours as well.
I started experiencing depression when I was 13 years old. Then, I saw a counselor and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I struggled with self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and severe depressive episodes for many years. There were many days when it was difficult to get out of bed, which negatively impacted my grades and school attendance. I missed parts of the 9th and 10th grades and met instructors for tutoring. I was avoiding many people and questions about why I wasn’t in school. Also, I had no motivation to go out or see anyone.
The summer before 11th grade changed my life — I moved from New York to Florida. It was difficult because I had to leave my family and friends. However, I found a good church here and a good therapist. I ended up finishing high school online. My college years started out well, but I ended up hospitalized for about a week during the spring semester of my freshman year. It is a persistent problem that has hindered my education. During these years, I was also dating someone I met at church. He didn’t understand exactly what I was going through, but he always supported me. Now, he’s my fiance, and we’re getting married next month.
So much has good has come out of this too — I started writing articles to raise awareness about mental health issues, I was able to bring comfort to a friend who ended up receiving the same diagnosis, and I have grown so much as a person.
I still hope to return to my classes and finish a degree someday. Don’t get me wrong, none of this was easy. Depression has stolen so much from me — years of education, fun times with family and friends, and the idea of what my life would look like.
However, through all of this, I have learned so much. I have learned about myself and about mental illnesses. This story is very personal to me, but it’s not just my story. It is the story of so many others who are struggling in the same way. It has made me aware of how big of an issue this is and how little most people know about it. A problem cannot be fixed if people don’t know it exists.
So today, I want to encourage you to share your story. There may be painful memories and it may be difficult to write. But I can’t think of a better way to celebrate World Semicolon Day than using your story to help others.
Featured image via Unsplash