Understanding Suicide; World Suicide Prevention Day.
While scrolling through Facebook one evening I came across something someone had posted in regards to suicide and mental health.
It read like this,
“If someone were to die at the age of 63 after a lifelong battle with MS or Sickle Cell, we’d all say they were a “fighter” or an “inspiration. But when someone dies after a lifelong battle with severe mental illness and drug addiction, we say it was a tragedy and tell everyone “don’t be like him, please seek help.” That’s bullshit. Robin Williams sought help his entire life. He saw a psychiatrist. He quit drinking. He went to rehab. He did this for decades. That’s HOW he made it to 63. For some people 63 is a fucking miracle. I know several people who didn’t make it past 23 and I’d do anything to have 40 more years with them.”
As we come into World Suicide Prevention Day/Month, this comment is worth more than anyone can image to someone who might be contemplating suicide.
I have a close friend of mine who has been struggling against the tide for several years. Every year I wonder if I will get the call from someone, telling me it’s time.
While I have mentally prepared myself for this as much as I can, I know that when it actually occurs I will be devastated, but until then, I cherish the time I have with her, because like an incurable disease, I don’t know when her end will actually come.
Over the past two years I have found myself writing personal stories, short stories, and plays that asks why we begrudgingly accept the loss of friends and family and hold on to the anger and pain that we feel about them and the circumstances surrounding their death.
We often don’t accept the loss of the person, urging other’s to seek help instead of even contemplating suicide, but if this is our way of thinking, is it the right way?
Consider a person who is suffering from a life long illness and wishes to die on their own terms. They call that Assisted Dying, which is now legal within Canada. No matter their age we wouldn’t want to tell them to change their mind, to seek help, to find a way to live better. We know that they are in pain, constantly every day, we know that they are terminally ill and that they are fighting hard to stay alive but perhaps it is time to let them go.
This thought process is socially acceptable, but when it comes to someone who is battling a Mental Illness, this thought process is not socially acceptable. Instead we urge them to seek help, we ask them get better, we ask them to not be like everyone else.
While we do need to be urging our friends, our peers, and our family to seek help, we also need to change the narrative of our stories and the way in which we tell the stories of those who committed suicide.
In order to do this we need to change the way we think about, and consider mental health. Unfortunately this is a battle that we are continuously fighting against and a tide that is hard to win.
So while it is Suicide Prevention Week, and the topic is important, and one to really remember to have with those who we are thinking are in need of help but aren’t reaching out. We have to remember we need to reach out to them, but also to remember that Mental Illness is an illness, and we need to change the narrative we have around the topic of suicide.
We need to remember to step into the shoes of those in need and question them. We need to understand if their mental illness is terminal, or if it is something that can be “cured” at least to the point to allow them to live and live well.
Remember, the narrative of mental health is not a simple one. It’s complicated and nuanced, and in order to continue to fight the good fight, and help those who need it, we need to remember that not everyone is the same, not all illnesses are equal and that sometimes we need to understand that letting go is better than holding on.