We’ve talked about it before. It’s on the news, it’s on your Facebook. It’s out there now. In the open for people to see. And, yet, we still don’t talk about it. It’s best not to talk about it, it makes people uncomfortable.
But suicide is touching more and more families and they don’t understand what’s going on. They say that they didn’t know, there was no warnings, no signs.
“I don’t understand, she was so pretty, so loved. She had so many friends. Why would she do this?”
Or “He was a good student, always got good grades. I don’t know what happened!”
We have more access to each other with social media and chatting apps. People, like me, use it to keep up with family and friends who aren’t right around the corner. While, my intentions are simple, others use these methods to do far more than just stay in touch.
Have you heard of “cyber bullying”? It’s where people go online, hiding behind a screen, to bully others. They chastise others, commenting on their weight, height, look, hair cut, eye color, makeup or lack of, boobs, butt — you name it, they pick. Hiding behind the anonymity of a screen name, anyone could be anyone. And no one has to be held accountable. People are cruel – why? Because they can be, I suppose. It makes people feel better, breaking down other people.
Cyber bullying is a big deal. Used to, we just bullied each other in public — in the hallways of the school. Now, we all just hide behind screens. Mean things are said — Most prevalent, I think, “Just go kill yourself!”
No one should have to hear that.
I’m not writing this post just to talk about cyber bullying or bullying in general — that’s just one factor.
Kids, I think, are often misdiagnosed. No one wants to think that their kid is messed up in the head. No one wants to think that their child has depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or a personality disorder. No one wants to think about that. So, we say “It’s just a phase.” “It’s just your hormones.” “It’s just your period.” When are we going to start taking mental health seriously?
Misdiagnosis can be deadly. Why? Take a look at the symptoms of almost every mental disorder and you’ll see that “Suicidal thoughts or behaviors” are a symptom. This is important. This is very important.
As a teenager, I went through my own personal hell. I didn’t know what was wrong. I didn’t know enough about depression or any other mental disorder to know that I really needed help. I was 15ish. I started having trouble sleeping, I started hallucinating, mood swings — most importantly I had severe depression and was cutting.
Had I been more educated about mental health, maybe I would have reached out sooner. But I didn’t know, and I didn’t know that I needed help. So, I just kept going. I kept cutting, not sleeping, seeing death follow me down the halls. I never asked for help. Because I didn’t know. My family wasn’t that educated in mental health either, so they didn’t know what was going on either.
We need to listen. We need to pay attention. We need to be educated. And that’s something that should start early.
But how do you start a conversation that no one wants to have? How do you warn parents that they need to pay special attention to details that could scream that your child is in danger?
For those of us who live with it, we know the signs. We know. We know when the thoughts are overcoming rational thought. We know that the withdrawal from friends and family should send up flags. We know that when you’re giving away things that are most precious to you, we know what you’re thinking. We know, because we’ve been there too.
I’ve been there. I live there most days. I live on the edge of wanting to be happy and love life and the side of darkness, where one wrong step sends you cascading down the mountain. I live there. I think about killing myself all the time. I think about how I would do it, what would I say in the note. I think about who would find me, and what people would say. I think about it because my brain tells me that the people in my life would be better off without me. That, without me, these people that I love wouldn’t be in the pain of living with me. I’m hard to live with, hard to love, because my brain tells me that I’m fucked up. It tells me that everything in my life is a lie and that everyone is just waiting for the opportunity to leave me. It tells me that I’m replaceable, and that if I just die people can move on with their lives.
Fortunately, I know the difference between rational and irrational thoughts. These thoughts that tell me that people would be better off without me and that I should just die, are irrational. I know that, if my life were to be ended, there are some people in my life that would never recover. I know that without me, there would be a difference in their lives, a hole that wouldn’t be healed – ever. I know this. But sometimes, my brain tells me otherwise. I have lived with my diagnosis long enough, done research, and have looked for coping mechanisms enough to know the difference between these thoughts. And I know not to act on my impulses. It’s hard. Sometimes, it’s a lot harder than I would like to admit. But, that’s when I reach out. I talk to my support system, I call the lifeline. I don’t sit here and just let the thoughts consume me. Sometimes, they come close…But I get help.
So what’s the difference between what I deal with and what other people go through? Nothing really, except that I’ve educated myself and I know how to reach out. Others, especially teens, don’t know how to reach out — they are afraid, and I don’t blame them. I don’t blame them because I’ve been there. I know how scary those thoughts are, I know how scary it is to ask for help. Why? Why is it so hard to tell someone you need the help?
Why? Because of the stigma — stigma attached to anything that deals with mental health and suicide. The taboo subject has evaded conversations for generations, and we are just now starting the conversations. Conversations that could have saved countless lives years and decades ago. But we’re scared, because we are uneducated, and it makes us uncomfortable.
Suicide is scary. It’s scary to think that someone would consider killing themselves, it’s scary to think that it might be someone you know. It’s terrifying when that someone is your child, brother, sister, mother, father….best friend? It’s terrifying. And no one wants to talk about it.
But if we talk about it, then we bring this beast into the light and we can save each other.
Why would you not ask for help? I’m scared. I’m afraid to be judged. I don’t want people to think I’m crazy. I don’t want to be locked up in a padded cell in the loony bin. I’m scared. These are just a few of the reasons that will come up. And I have to say, I’ve said many of them myself.
Teens — kids are cruel. How many times do we hear that? Any time someone is getting picked on or bullied — Oh, well… Kids will be kids right? Boys pick on girls because they like them. So maybe, you shouldn’t be such a prude. He wouldn’t be mean to you if you would just quit being a cold bitch. Boys will be boys. —- just a few excuses we hear.
Teens are susceptible to these behaviors and thoughts because, instead of teaching them to be kind to one another, we make excuses for poor behavior, we protect the bullies and blame the victims. So, when a teen commits suicide, we just turn a blind eye and say – we didn’t know, there’s nothing that could have been done. The parents are left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and all we can say is, we’re sorry.
A friend of mine, recently tried to kill herself… She’s 18. She couldn’t take the pressure anymore, and just decided that it was time. She didn’t reach out, she just told her best friend good bye. Fortunately, that best friend reached out. She came and told her parents what was going on. My friend was saved, rushed to the ER and then got placed on a 72 hour psych hold. Now, because of that experience, she is afraid to go to school. Why? She doesn’t want to be ridiculed. She doesn’t want people to know that she tried to kill herself — people will call her crazy, treat her differently, people will avoid her, or they will make fun of her. And that is not fair.
Instead of educating teens and children and their parents about mental health, mental illness, and the scary stuff like suicide, we hide it. And that’s where the stigma comes.
People make fun of suicide. People make fun of crazy, they don’t understand it. It’s OK to say things like “Ugh, the weather is so bipolar!” “She’s so schizo”. We make jokes.
Here’s what we can do: Sit down and have a serious conversation with people. If you’re feeling suicidal – talk to someone. People can’t help you unless you ask. If you’re not comfortable talking to your family, there are suicide lifelines out there that will help you — they’ve saved me a couple of times.
Educate yourself of mental illness, and if you feel like something isn’t right, have a conversation with your doctor. And know, that you are not alone in this fight.
Signs of suicidal behavior:
> Saying good bye to people like it’s the last time you’re going to see them
> Giving away possessions
> Focusing on death or dying
> Changes in sleep
> A sudden calm after a bout of depression
> Reckless behavior
> Increase alcohol or drug use
> Neglect of personal appearance
And there are more.
For more information on how to start the conversation and learn the signs: http://www.suicideispreventable.org or http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. If you’re feeling suicidal call: 1-800-273-8255 (suicide lifeline) You can text anonymously to: 741741 and will be connected with a crisis counselor.
Please know, that even if your brain is telling you that this is the only way and you’re alone, you’re not alone. And you don’t have to die. Please, reach out. Help is out there, I promise.