September 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), as you may have heard. Perhaps you wore orange, yellow, or blue and purple to show your support for suicide prevention. Maybe you drew a ribbon or a butterfly on your arm in those colors. Maybe you mentioned the day on social media or shared a link. Perhaps you even talked about it in real life. Maybe, just maybe, you spent today choosing to live instead of die.
Or maybe the day was spent just like any other.
I don’t blame you if WSPD wasn’t at the top of your mind today. As a society, suicide and mental illness are so heavily stigmatized that few are brave enough to broach the subjects, and when they do they often receive a weird look or an awkward shuffle of feet as a response. The other day I re-learned just how afraid of the topic people are. I often share status updates and blog posts from the organization To Write Love On Her Arms’ (TWLOHA) Facebook page. TWLOHA is a non-profit organization which aims to present hope and provide help and services for people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and thoughts of suicide. I am a big fan of theirs, as I myself have depression and struggle with suicidal thoughts. TWLOHA has given me a place I feel safe and welcome, if only on the Internet. They also helped me realize how easy it is to be open about one’s struggles with mental illness. Whenever I see something inspiring on their page, I like to Share it on my Timeline. But the day before WSPD, I found out from my mom that people have been asking her questions about me because of these updates. They don’t like how often I share these things. It makes them uncomfortable.
They gossip because they’re concerned. But gossiping to my mom isn’t going to help me, the one they’re so worried about. It isn’t going to help anyone, really. It’s only going to bring embarrassment to my mom as she fumbles about trying to find a socially acceptable explanation, and it brought shame to me when I found out. I was humiliated that people thought this of me, and that they had gone and gossiped. What else are they thinking that they didn’t tell my mom? Do they think I’m weird or awkward? Do they think I need to be locked up or shut up? My extreme social anxiety only exacerbated my worries. I felt like crying. I felt like shutting down my account, and then when that idea had passed, I felt like giving up on this whole suicide-prevention thing. Who cares? Nobody, it often seems. My shares and updates rarely get any Likes or comments. Most of my friends never provide support or ask questions. My relatives, despite knowing the severity of my struggles, are silent.
And yet, despite these thoughts and facts, I continue to share. I continue to talk. I continue to educate when I can. I continue to Not Shut Up. Today, I got up, and I shared whatever damn posts I wanted to. So long as I believe I am helping someone and spreading the message that Mental Illness Is Not Shameful, I will keep on talking.
Suicide is a serious issue. It is real. It is deadly. It kills real human beings. Suicide and mental illness are not a joke. They never have been and they never will be. If a serious, deadly illness like cancer gets parades and media attention and treatment fundraisers and T-shirts and ribbons, why can’t a serious, deadly mental illness like depression get the same recognition and help? There are a lot of things we are already doing for mental health. But there are also a lot of things we’re not doing. And one of the biggest things we’re not doing is talking about it.
I don’t expect you to stand up on a box in the middle of a busy street and declare that you have depression. No, that’s not what I’m talking about. What I want us to do is share those updates, share those blogs, make those statuses, wear our orange shirts with pride, and answer honestly when somebody asks, “Why?”.
Why do we do it? Why do we care? Why are we not ashamed?
Because mental illness is normal. It is not our faults. If one is not ashamed to have cancer, one should not be made to feel ashamed for being depressed. We care because we know how much depression hurts (and how numb it makes its victims, at the same time). We’ve been there, or we are there, or we’ve seen it all before. We do it because we don’t want anyone else to ever feel as lonely as we have. We want to spread the love, and we want to spread the hope. We want everyone who is feeling hurt and alone to know that it gets better (oh, GOD, it gets so much better), that there is nothing to be ashamed of, and that there are people who care and help is out there.
That is why I do what I do. That is why I don’t shut up. I am living the pain, but I am also living through it, and I know what lies on the other side. I know that as f***ing scary as our world is, there is still good in it. There is so much good.
And to those who are in their darkest moment, please hear me when I say suicide is not the answer. No matter how long you’ve felt this way, or how shitty your life is, or how much you f***ed up, you are going to make it through this. You are going to see the sunshine again. It’s not going to be easy (I won’t sugar-coat it). But it is as possible as choosing to go to bed at night, and choosing to get up in the morning. If that is all you can do right now, okay, that’s all you can do right now. That’s okay. You’ll get to where I am, where you can get up and get dressed again. Today I even went out with a friend, and tomorrow I think I’ll do it again. It’ll happen for you too. It will happen. But you have to be here to live it. So please, keep fighting. You have no clue what could be around the corner, or the next.
Below are some resources and information. Go ahead and check them out if you want to learn more about suicide and depression, or need help. The picture above is TWLOHA’s WSPD 2015 campaign logo that I melded over a sunrise. Thank you all for reading, and I sincerely hope you’ll be with us tomorrow.
- 1 (800) 273-8255 (America’s and Canada’s National Suicide Prevention Hotline)
- Crisis Textline (24/7 text-hotline; this page also lists other hotlines for numerous crises)
- Samaritans’ Contact Page (UK’s and Ireland’s hotline)
- 13 11 14 (Australian hotline)
- Lifeline (New Zealand)
- TWLOHA’s Find Help
- The Trevor Project’s Get Help
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- The Trevor Project (focused on helping LGBT youth)