How to Understand Suicide
I’m still rattled by the tragic news of Robin Williams death.
Like most 90’s kids, I grew up to Aladdin, Hook, Fern Gully, and (of course), my number one favorite….Mrs. Doubtfire. The list of his talent goes well beyond film, as he was known as a huge donor to many charities, and truly loved by all.
I have often heard people say “Suicide is the most selfish thing anyone can do.” In fact, I have said that.
Depression, on this scale, first felt real when I was 14 years old, and I was a new student in a large high school. A lovely young man named Logan was one of the first to speak to me in my Health class. He was nice, blushed easily, and like most Freshman in High School, he tried really hard to seem like he wasn’t trying very hard to fit in. About 5 months later, he took his own life.
Most of the student body attended his memorial. There were probably 2,000 people in a large auditorium, and every single person that spoke of Logan shared similar stories to mine: He was thoughtful, he was sincere, he was one of the first to speak to those who seemed uncomfortable.
Depression manifesting into suicide has not stopped. But what has passed is my thinking that “Suicide is the most selfish thing anyone can do.” I truly feel shame and sadness for, at some point in my life, speaking those words and believing them to be true.
Not long ago, someone I knew took their own life. I was confused, I was sad, I was angry, and I was deeply hurt. I didn’t understand. I shared these feelings with my mom (Marla). She went on to explain a bit:
“Ariel, I don’t understand either. But when I was just a little older than you, one of our dearest friends lost his battle with depression. Your father and I attended his service, and I will never forget what the minister said. She said that there are absolutely no differences between his death and someone who had died by being attacked in an alleyway.”
How could this be? How could you compare the two?
“No one knows what Vince was battling or going through. No one. His depression was like a gang of bad people attacking him: Attacking him every. single. day. They put him down. They took his joy. They crushed his spirit. And he couldn’t keep fighting them any longer. No one could survive that torment, and so there was unmeasurable peace in making it stop.”
Finally I had some clarity. It made sense. It didn’t make my heart hurt any less, and it didn’t take away from the enormous loss all of his loved ones were feeling. But, I was finally able to have true compassion.
Depression is an ugly disease. It takes your joy; it crushes your spirit. And how do you battle something that doesn’t have a shape or a face? How can you overcome something that is always with you, and ignorantly understood by the masses? Many people don’t treat depression as a disease. I have heard (too many times) people say “Just get over it,” or “Why can’t you just stop?”. And I think….would you say that to someone who was terminally ill? Would you have the nerve to think that about someone who had Lupus?
This is a very real ailment and a very real epidemic.
According to WHO, the World Health Organization, approximately one million people commit suicide each year worldwide. That is about one death every 40 seconds, or 3,000 per day. For each individual who takes their life, there are at least 20 attempts to do so. Suicide has a global mortality rate of 16 per 100,000 people.
When I first read the data on the numbers, I couldn’t help but re-read where it says that for every one person who takes their life, there are 20 attempts to do so. Twenty.
I have been thinking about my own mortality lately. I never used to think about it. But now, when my husband and I are thinking about family planning and potentially bringing another human into this world in a few years, I have a hard time not thinking about it.
The gift of life is powerful. And death is equally as powerful. Of course, everyday we all risk the potential end of life. However, most of us aren’t tempted, because of an unseen battle, to do so.
I continually think about the power of kindness. One smile to a stranger, one small gesture of connection in this human experience, can literally save a life. Understanding and supporting those you love who have expressed some level of depression, can save a life.
I think that a lot of people who are undertaking this challenging battle don’t necessarily come out and tell you. It’s usually in very small ways. So, my request to you is to take some time everyday and really listen: Put your phone down, stop waiting for your turn to talk, and listen. Listen to the non-verbal. Genuinely ask about someone’s day. We are all so busy and so distracted and have all the excuses in the book to keep our heads down and be self-serving. But please, don’t do that all the time.
One of the reasons Passion Provokers started was to help people. Let us help and/or recommend you see a doctor.
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Marla and Jami
Cofounders of JamiAndMarla.LOVE (fka Passion Provokers and Keller Coaching) Jami and Marla are proud to bring a new level of success to coupleships worldwide with their unique coaching, mentoring, and consulting process. Their blogs are not only informative for coupleships they are personal. For over 25 years they have been helping people create emotionally and physically intimate coupleships.
Ariel is a freelance blogger, web designer, and SEO consultant. She is 23 years young, married to her soulmate, and a proud “mother” to boxer Bruce and Yorkie Dexter. She focuses on writing content that is raw and relatable. (Info relevant at the time of writing, circa 2013-2015)