It’s okay to call it what it is. We don’t need to sugar coat it and dance around the word because we are too afraid of the stigma it carries when the word leaves our lips. I’m talking about suicide. Yes, I said it.
It’s not a bad word, and if we keep treating it as such, we are going to continue to miss the opportunity for prevention and intervention. Let’s bring that word into the light, so that people struggling with mental illness, depression, anxiety and loss no longer live in the shadows where it is lonely and dark.
I know suicide is difficult to talk about. See, I said it again. I didn’t say, “IT’S difficult to talk about,” or “FEELING SAD is difficult to talk about.” I said suicide. This state of being is far beyond the emotional understanding of feeling sad. It’s much deeper than that. Sadness is just the tip of the iceberg and only scratches the surface of the true nature of throbbing pain.
It’s the G rated version of pain. We all experience sadness. We don’t all experience the ideation of suicide. It’s the loss of a soul, encapsulated in the weight of the world. It’s an absolute disconnect from believing that one’s purpose in this life is important. That purpose even exists.
It’s the suicide of a mental state that keeps someone from being able to seek truth, solace and comfort in the world we live in. The current space they take up in this world does not hold them in a way that allows them to view their pain as temporary.
How could a person be at such a place where they feel as though non-existence is a greater option than being alive? It’s frustrating and it’s difficult to understand, I know. The “rest of us” are able to put one foot in front of the other, so why can’t they? It’s SELFISH. But is it really?
Is it selfish for one to want to find relief and finality to end the insurmountable levels of emptiness and lack of belonging? Is it selfish for our loved one to seek a place in time where they no longer feel pain, sadness, chaos and darkness? We all want to rid ourselves of that, don’t we?
When we experience pain, we explore all of our options to end our discomfort. We reach out, we search our souls, we withdrawal, we fight, we hide, we pray, we explore every dimension this world allows us to relieve our internal turmoil. We want to bring death to our pain, our suffering, and our hopelessness. We even want that for our pets.
For those of us who have been suicidal, attempted suicide, or lost a loved one to suicide, we know the tragedy. We know the emptiness that words don’t seem to accurately describe. I’m not sure that there are words to actually label and attach authentic meaning for that feeling. If those words exist, I haven’t quite found them.
As the anniversary of the death of my close high school friend approaches, I refuse to stop talking about suicide. I do this in part because I wish I knew how to talk about it when she was alive. She and I joked over red cups of Bud Light about how we were both “messed up kids taking crazy pills.” I wish I knew how to get beneath her surface response that she was “totally fine” when I brought up being worried about her. I didn’t know how. And most people don’t. That’s what I hope to change.
As someone that was left behind, I was confused and devastated. I felt pissed off, and I cursed her for being so selfish. It took me a long time to realize that maybe she wasn’t only thinking about herself. Maybe she had her family and friends at the forefront of her mind constantly.
Maybe all she thought about was trying to wake up each morning and fight through one more day…FOR her family and friends. Maybe she wanted to give up long before she did. Maybe she never gave up at all. Maybe she fought her best fight and did absolutely everything she could. That’s courageous if you ask me.
It takes an incredible amount of strength to endure regular, constant, and continuous fear, pain, and struggle. Step out of your comfort zone and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. From that viewpoint you can see and honor the strength it takes to battle tsunami sized waves with a 20 pound anchor tied to your foot every day.
This is my call to action. Suicide is OUR problem. And without all of us coming together and doing something about it, we will continue to lose our loved ones. It is our responsibility to get involved. Let’s start saying we WILL, instead of we should have.
We WILL address the pandemic levels of suicide that exist in our families, neighborhoods and communities. We WILL advocate for the funding of services and programs to provide support and intervention. We WILL let the people in our lives know that it’s okay to talk about feeling suicidal and that help is available.
We WILL speak out on behalf of those who feel they have lost their voice and we WILL do our part to end the stigma. We WILL do this together because suicide is preventable. We owe it to ourselves and our families. They need us just as much as we need them.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
All of my love,
Erin Callinan, MSW
Consultant, Speaker, Author
Beneath The Brave