We've all heard it. We've all felt it. Someone falls victim to suicide and the *nearly* unanimous cry is, “Why didn't they get help?!” “Why didn't they tell someone?!” Chances are really good that they tried. They tried really hard. But most people who are not at risk of suicide think that the path to it is paved with bright neon signs that say, “SUICIDE! THIS WAY!” The fact is that no matter what side of the political and religious spectrums you are, most people recoil from the subject of death, and the very idea that someone could intentionally end their own life goes against every fiber of our being. So, unless we are forced to deal with the ugly aftermath, we downplay it as much as possible, assuring ourselves that if we saw someone on that awful road, we would recognize it. But would we really? And do we really think that someone who is contemplating suicide sits there logically weighing the pros and cons before seeking advice from their friends and family? Yeah, I didn't think so. In order to recognize the real signs, we first need to get it out of our head that self-inflicted injury or death is about death. It's about pain. Think about the last time you got the norovirus or food poisoning. You felt horrible. It goes on and on and you just want it to stop. Your body contorts involuntarily. You can't think about anything else except that you just. Want. It. To. Stop. What if, instead of twenty-four hours, this state of being kept going – indefinitely. Now, let's imagine that, inexplicably, no one can tell that you have food poisoning. They walk by, try to have conversations with you, go about their business – all while you're being actively, violently ill. You can't speak except in single words and basic concepts. Some of the people who pass by are annoyed. They can't see what your feeling and they wonder why you won't speak in full sentences or aren't paying attention to what they were saying. Others think maybe something's wrong with you and that makes them uncomfortable, so they hurry by. Still others want to help, but they also kind of think – deep down – that you're being a big baby. “Chin up!” they say. “Everything's going to be ok! There was this time when I didn't feel good, so I started exercising and that helped so much! You should try it!” Meanwhile the life is draining out of you and you care less and less. You start to feel as numb as a rock. You may as well be one. A rock can't feel. The more pain you're in and the longer it lasts, the more you become singularly focused on just making it stop. It doesn't matter how. In your helpless state, what you need is someone to recognize that your silence is pain, that your cries are not dramatic, that you are not weak or without faith. You need someone to get down on the bathroom floor and hold your hair back. Because ultimately, it's little, real, meaningful gestures that can help guide hurting people off a path they don't even realize they are on. What signs do we need to be watching for? Everyone is different, so everyone is going to behave differently when they are struggling. Be vigilant when someone is not acting like themselves. They don't seem to be enjoying the things they usually enjoy. Smiles may be scarce and forced. They stay in bed or lay in bed for unusual lengths of times (don't we all want to curl up in bed when we aren't feeling well?). If they go as far as to communicate with us, we need to listen carefully. Don't dismiss self-deprecating language, even if it sounds like a joke. Know when to encourage socialization and when to recognize that it's too much. Recognize also that your own scope of aid may not be enough. Your friend may need gentle nudges towards getting professional help. And if we hear about someone who has fallen victim to suicide – let's not dead-shame. Instead, lets redouble our efforts and pay close attention to the hurting people in our lives. Let empathy wash away the fear and discomfort that so many of us have in the presence of pain. Embody comfort. Listen. Be there. Love.
''We as the society, are guilty of murder for every suicide...'' - Nwokeji Bianca Suicide and depression are one bloodline. Suicide is a rebirth of depression. Depression is a cancer, it eats up your mental stability and deprives you of the purpose for living. At a point, you begin to question your existence, life begins to feel worthlessly anguishing, you'll decide to take the 'easy way out', and then suicide sets in. Let me share a little story. I once knew a woman, or rather, an angel. She shined brighter than Sirius, and her smile; so beautiful and warmer than the rays of the morning sun, levitated weary souls and fixed broken hearts. She brought peace to the unrest and gave hope to the hopeless. She in fact, was a healer and people basked in the warmth she provided. However, a cursed blessing it was, that she be the healer of all except herself for on a sad Saturday morning, wails were heard; she was found dead in her room and on the table, laid a suicide note. She took her own life. Little was it known, that behind that radiating smile, was a soul drowning in a sea of depression, and struggling so hard to survive. No one knew what she was going through; the sicknesses, problems and heartbreaks she faced or; maybe we were too ignorant and selfish to notice that, the warmth she gave was from the fire that consumed her. All she needed was someone to talk to, someone who genuinely cared about her. She was drowning slowly in her sea of depression and all she needed was a lifeguard and when none came, she slowly drowned. Many people out there are like this woman, camouflaging their depression, acting all happy but deep down, they're choking, but why shouldn't they? In a society as selfish and toxic as the one we live in, I'm not least surprised. When people confidently brag about how good they are at being uncaring, why shouldn't suicide be the order of the day? Least I forget, the problem of the present day social media drama. People are out there living fake lives. Acting like life is a bed of roses. They forget that even roses have thorns and quietly the thorns pierce through their sanity. What exactly are we pretending for? Why make other feel inferior with what we posses not? The governments of the world nations are endlessly trying to stop suicide but I feel that, the power to do that, lies in us as a society and individually. Some people are already on a volatile lifeline a little intense crisis, and they vaporize into thin air. All they need is a little care and support, an anchor, a lean on shoulder. A simple act of care goes a long way to save lives. A simple greeting to that homeless man on the street, can go a long way to make him feel relevant. A simple visit to the hospital goes a long way to make the patients feel valid. A short genuine chitchat with that old lonely neighbour of yours goes a long way to resuscitate her a little longer. A little word of encouragement to that hopeless person can go a long way to keep him struggling to survive. Parents, take some time off work to be with your children, have deep talks with them. Show them that you love them, it's not all about making money. Teens and young people, you see that your friend, take some time, have deep talks, its not only about partying and fun. This should be a wakeup call to every member of the society. The moment we decide to start acting selfless, caring and showing love to one another, things will get better and suicide will be eliminated. "The end of the toxic uncaring nature of the people is the beginning of a suicide free society..." - Nwokeji Bianca
I am here today for one reason: someone stopped me. The house was vacant, abandoned, and in a neighborhood a few miles from my house. I'd been there three days, hiding from my life. I found a discarded razor blade in the bathroom. I shaved all the hair from my forearms, testing the sharpness. My image in the mirror disgusted me. I held clumps of my shoulder-length hair and cut it all off. I cut my bangs off to my scalp. I screamed myself hoarse. Crying, shaking so much I couldn't stand, I went into another room and sat in the closet. I didn't deserve sunlight. I was dirty, a bad girl. I should kill myself. Then it wouldn't hurt anymore. No one wanted me. I held the razor against my wrist, ready to cut. But how? I didn't know. Then I heard a sound. I froze. A window opened, metal screeching. Was it going to happen again? I scooched into the corner and hid. A walkie-talkie squawked gibberish. Keys jangled. "I know you're here. Someone heard you screaming. Come on out now." His voice sounded warm and calm, not angry. "I'm a police officer. You're not in trouble. I promise." I bit my lip and closed my hand around the razor. I would use it if he was lying. But he sounded nice. I peeked out. He stood in the center of the room, arms at his sides. He had blue eyes and smiled at me. I smiled back. “Come on out. Let's talk for a minute.” He sat and crossed his legs. He said something I didn't understand into the radio on his shoulder. I crawled forward to sit next to him. I crossed my legs and put my hands in my lap, razor still hidden in my right hand. “What's your name?' he asked. “Charity,” I said. “Do you have a last name?” I gave it to him. “I'm Officer Spalding. Wanna tell me why're you here all alone?” I shrugged. “You look like you might be sad.” I nodded. “Do you want to talk about it?” I looked at him. To this day, I don't know why, but I trusted him. His eyes were clear and kind. His voice soothed me. The last few days tumbled out, words tripping over each other. I told him about the older neighborhood boy I thought was my friend. How he wanted me to meet his mom and brought me in his house, where it was pitch black. How he pushed me to the floor, took off my clothes, and forced his penis inside me. I wept, reliving the pain, the fear, the smell of his sweat, the sound of him above me. How I screamed, kicked, begged, then just fell silent as he finished. I told him about wanting to die. Office Spalding did the most amazing thing. Slowly, he put his arms around me and held me as I sobbed. He waited while I caught my breath. “What happened to your hair?” “I cut it.” “Oh. With scissors?” I shook my head, held out my hand, and opened it. “With this.” “I see. Can I have that?” I nodded. He plucked it from my hand, tucking it in one of his many pockets. “You are one brave, beautiful young lady. What happened to you isn't your fault. Bad things happen, and we must find a way to work through them. Killing yourself isn't the answer. You are precious. You are so important.” “You think so?” “I know so. Now, I'd like you to make me a promise, one you can never break. Can you do that?” I nodded. “You're going to go through tough times. You'll think you don't want to live anymore. But I want you to promise me you will never, ever, take your own life. I want your word, you won't ever kill yourself.” I thought for a moment and looked at him. Something within me spoke. “I promise.” “Good. Now, how about we get you back home? I'm sure your mom is really worried about you.” “No, she's not. She's going to be really mad.” “She might be. Don't worry, I'll talk to your mom, okay?” I nodded. He helped me to my feet. We climbed out the window and walked to his car. A crowd had gathered, strange faces I didn't recognize. Three police cars formed a semi-circle around the driveway, lights flashing. I don't remember much of the ride home. I was tired. Hungry. Scared. My mom was livid, but only because I'd been brought home by a cop. She never even reported me missing. A few weeks later she sent me back to live with my dad. I've never forgotten Officer Spalding's words. They're sealed within my soul in a special place. He was right. There have been many hard times since. There have been times I thought I would break my promise. Something just won't let me give up now, no matter how much it hurts. His words ignite the part of me that refuses to quit. He was my guardian angel. He saved my life. I have used the same exact strategy with my own family – my daughter, who struggles with mental illness daily, my son, my husband, and friends. I honor my promise every day. I have saved four people so far. I hope to keep saving more. He was right, as it turns out, I am important. I didn't know how much until many years later. Now I am important to countless people, but mostly to three special, wonderful people I love beyond words. I carry his message with me and share it with all who need to hear it.
Suicide. What just crossed your mind? One single word sends countless thoughts through countless heads. Just seven letters, and thousands of thoughts... Sad. Scary. Bad. Tragedy. Fear. Don't say that. You can't do that. Painfully blunt. Too much. Quiet down! Suicide is a rising epidemic worldwide. There are over 550 deaths by suicide every single year in my home state alone. Every single year this monster takes almost 600 of my people. But this monster is not suicide. "Suicide" is simply a word that means a life was taken by hands of it's own. The monster is something very different. The monster is the cause of suicide. There are many monsters, but there is one that we ignore. One we shove to the back corner, so we can pretend it doesn't exist. One monster that may be more lethal than any other. And that monster is stigma. Suicide means someone's life was taken by their own hands; but it doesn't mean that someone killed themself. I know what you're thinking. Slow down! That is literally what it means! Before you flee to the dictionary for a denotative definition, hear me out. Yes, the person died by their very own actions. But, in the majority of cases, it is my belief that they didn't kill themself. The monsters killed them. Humankind is making mounds of progress in the knowledge that people who died by suicide are rarely the cause of their own death. Through education, many are learning that mental illness is a real issue, and a very big one. Mental illness is one of the monsters that plays a large part in the majority of suicide cases. Through dedicated research, humankind has discovered ways to help people who suffer from mental illnesses, including varying forms of treatment and raising awareness. We have done a lot to lower the reach of mental illness, now it is time to put our efforts toward lowering the reach and effects of another very quiet but horribly significant monster: stigma. Stigma. Noun. A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. Mental illness kills. And so does the stigma surrounding it. Why is it that there is such a large and negative stigma surrounding mental illness and suicidal ideation? This stigma stops people with serious illnesses from reaching out for help. Somehow being mentally ill is wrong. Being suicidal is shameful. One brings it upon themself. Or, this is what the world should have us think. The stigma surrounding mental illness tells people who simply have sick brains that these horrible thoughts and feelings they deal with are their own fault, and nobody can know because it is shameful. There is an enormous pressure to hide it, and to fix it by yourself. This is not reasonable! One can expect mentally ill people to fix themselves as much as one can expect people with broken bones or physical impairments to fix themselves. Pressure builds, the issue is not helped, and the illness gets worse. Because of stigma, mental illness goes from treatable to lethal. Though it isn't ideal and nobody would wish it, mental illness is a reality that many individuals face. And still, though we have the knowledge needed to understand and accept mental illness as it is, the stigma surrounding it kills; more than the illness itself. Humankind has come so far over the years! We have learned how to treat mental illness in many cases, saving many lives! Now it is time to treat the stigma surrounding mental illness. Stigma has been killing people. It is time for people to kill stigma.