talk about it a lot these days, as I've reached the point where it feels like a
lifetime ago. Healing was a long and grief-stricken process. There were times
when I felt very alone in my grief and there were times when I felt lost and
confused. The trouble with suicide is that no one knows what to say. No one
knows how to react. So they smile and wave and attempt distraction... but they
never ever say the word. The survivors, it seems, are often left to survive on
I experienced endless waves of emotion in the days, weeks,
months and even years following the loss of my father. The "what ifs"
kept me up at night, causing me to float through each day in a state of
perpetual exhaustion.What if I had answered the phone that night? Would the sound of my
voice have changed his mind? Would he have done it at a later date, anyway?Survivor's
Sometimes, I cried. Sometimes, I sat perfectly still watching
the waves crash down on Main Beach, hoping for a sign of some kind that he had
reached a better place. Sometimes, I silently scolded myself for not seeing the
warning signs. Sometimes, I bargained with God or anyone else who might be in
charge up there.Bring him back to us. Please, just bring him back.Sometimes
I felt angry.Why us? Why me? Why him?
experienced a range of emotions before making peace with the loss. But one
thought that never ever (not even for one second) crossed my mind was this
ill-informed opinion that suicide is selfish. Suicide is a lot of things, but
selfish isn't one of them.
a decision made out of desperation, hopelessness, isolation and loneliness. The
black hole that is clinical depression is all-consuming. Feeling like a burden
to loved ones, feeling like there is no way out, feeling trapped and feeling
isolated are all common among people who suffer from depression.
say that suicide is selfish always reference the survivors. It's selfish to
leave children, spouses and other family members behind, so they say. They're
not thinking about the survivors, or so they would have us believe. What they
don't know is that those very loved ones are the reason many people hang on for
just one more day. They do think about the survivors, probably up until the
very last moment in many cases. But the soul-crushing depression that envelops
them leaves them feeling like there is no alternative. Like the only way to get
out is to opt out. And that is a devastating thought to endure.
you've stared down that level of depression, until you've lost your soul to a
sea of emptiness and darkness... you don't get to make those judgments. You
might not understand it, and you are certainly entitled to your own feelings,
but making those judgments and spreading that kind of negativity won't help the
next person. In fact, it will only hurt others.
world mourns the loss of Robin Williams, people everywhere are left feeling
helpless and confused. How could someone who appeared so happy in actuality be
so very depressed? The truth is that many, many people face the very same
struggle each and every day. Some will commit suicide. Some will attempt. And
some will hang on for dear life. Most won't be able to ask for the help that
they need to overcome their mental illness.
Know thewarning signsfor suicide. 50-75% of people who
attempt suicide will tell someone about their intention. Listen when people
talk. Make eye contact. Convey empathy. And for the love of people everywhere,
put down that ridiculous not-so-SmartPhone and be human.
on friends struggling with depression. Even if they don't answer the phone or
come to the door, make an effort to let them know that you are there.
Friendship isn't about saving lost souls; friendship is about listening and
to survivors of suicide. Practice using the words "suicide" and
"depression" so that they roll off the tongue as easily as
"unicorns" and "bubble gum." Listen as they tell their
stories. Hold their hands. Be kind with their hearts. And hug them every single
help. Learn about the resources in your area so that you can help friends and
loved ones in need. Don't be afraid to check in over and over again. Don't be
afraid to convey your concern. One human connection can make a big difference
in the life of someone struggling with mental illness and/or survivor's guilt.
30,000 peoplecommit suicide in the United States
each year. 750,000 people attempt suicide. It's time to raise awareness,
increase empathy and kindness, and bring those numbers down.