As some of you may know, this week is National Suicide Prevention Week. NSPW is centered around September 10th, which is World Suicide Prevention Day. This year is the first year I’ve really paid attention to this sort of thing – bringing awareness to suicide and mental health in general.
I debated all week whether or not to post something on the topic of suicide. It’s a difficult thing for me to talk about. But that’s what this week is really about – removing the stigmas attached to discussing suicide. We, as a society, have a long way to go in terms of dealing with mental health issues. It seems like it’s either throw medication at someone who has a mental illness or simply tell them to “get over it.” And even then, it’s seen as something worse, something fundamentally wrong. Not like how physical illnesses or injuries are viewed. For example, when I had a fractured knee and was in a leg brace and on crutches for several months, I got a lot more sympathy from friends and teachers at university. But when I was diagnosed with clinical depression (also known as major depressive disorder) and it interfered with my life, I got far less sympathy. I was told to suck it up and get over it. I was told that all I had to do was “think happy thoughts!” But as anyone who suffers from depression knows, it’s not that simple and it’s not that easy. I’ll delve more into my battle with depression next month, as the first week in October is Mental Illness Awareness Week.
Suicide is the reason I even went in and got diagnosed in the first place. There was one night in my sophomore year of college where I took a bottle of ibuprofen in an attempt to give myself a heart attack. At the time, I didn’t know how low the fatality rate was for an overdose of ibuprofen. All I knew was that I had heard that taking too many would cause a heart attack and that that’s all I had on hand. I spent the next several hours sitting in the kitchen holding a knife to my wrist, wondering if I should just do it the old-fashioned way.
Clearly, and happily, I didn’t. A few days later, my roommate confronted me and made me promise to go to the Student Health center. Again, I’ll detail my issues with depression in another post, but long story short, I did not seriously treat my mental illness until the beginning of this year. That’s 7 years that I went largely untreated. And while I never attempted suicide again, I have seriously thought about it. I’ve made plans. I’ve done research. When I moved to Minneapolis just over three years ago, I had to redo all my research and planning. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ventured to the tops of parking ramps or meandered over bridges, looking for ways to jump. Mind you, I’d long since decided that jumping was the method of suicide for me. There’s no taking it back, you can’t really fuck it up, and I’d get that sensation of flying before I hit the ground. I even went so far as to note how many people or cars were around at whatever time I was scouting locations. I might have wanted to end my life, but I didn’t want to inconvenience anybody.
Wow. those few words took me hours to type. It’s still very hard for me to talk about. Even with all I’ve gone through, it still seems like I’m admitting to a fault in myself. A fault that I’m somehow responsible for. Like I didn’t try to be happy enough. It’s this sort of mentality that’s so pervasive in society. Suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst people ages 15-24. All the time you hear those left behind by people who’ve committed suicide that they never thought this could happen. That they never expected someone as happy as So-and-So, whose life seemed so perfect and put together, to do something like this. But there’s a reason suicidal thoughts go unsaid and suicidal tendencies go unnoticed. There’s still this huge stigma around the topics of suicide and mental health. Once society can recognize that mental illnesses are a real thing and cause real harm and are a real problem for those dealing with them, maybe we can get suicide rates across the globe to drop dramatically. People like me will be more willing to seek help if we stop viewing mental illness as something to hide, as something that can be ignored and still somehow get better.
I’ll end this post before I start rambling and crying as I type. Here’s a list of suicide hotline numbers, listed by country. And if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression, it’s 100% absolutely okay to reach out to someone close to you. More often than not, there’s at least one person who knows what you’re dealing with, who can relate to you, or who understands that your problems are real problems. I’m pretty new to WordPress, but if you feel like talking, I’m available as well.
Whatever the obstacles, enjoy the journey.