Over the past decades, the rates of mental illness and suicide have risen drastically, and yet no one is sounding any alarm bells. It is estimated that one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide, that is more than 700,000 deaths every year. These numbers are only the tip of the iceberg, because there are also many more people who attempt suicide.
Suicide is a global concern and needs to be addressed with urgency. Suicide’s impact extends far beyond the person who died by suicide, because it also devastates the lives of those left behind. While it is reported that suicide can happen as a result of an impulsive behavior resulting from a crisis, there is still an apparent link between suicide and mental illness. Mental illness is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and can lead to suicide if left untreated. Yet, not enough is being done to address the severity of the situation at hand.
Not only that, but there is still quite a misconception surrounding both mental illness and suicide. For starters, just because we cannot see someone’s pain and wounds does not make them any less real. We need to get outside the walls we have built around our minds and start educating ourselves about mental illness and the deep mental, emotional and physical distress it can entail to those suffering from it.
Here is the thing, the world has no problem mourning a person who died by suicide, and yet they run for their lives when someone talks about their mental illness. It is ironic, selfish and point blank ignorant. Accepting that mental illness is just as real as any other illness and learning about it is the first step to changing the narrative and potentially saving thousands of lives.
Suicide is no joke, and it has to be addressed with the utmost importance. But in order to do so, one frequent and overly used misconception has to be cleared out. What so many do not get about suicide is that people do not die because of suicide, they die by suicide.
People die from a mental illness or after going through an unbearable crisis that they feel there is no other way out. Suicide is not a cause of death, it is just the means by which someone dies. And that aspect is imperative to highlight so that the narrative can be shifted and people who are having suicidal thoughts can feel safe to reach out.
Contrary to what many might believe, I know for fact that suicide is not a choice. Because for those about to die by it, suicide seems to be the only valid thing to do. But let me tell you one thing, many of those who survive it have all agreed that they regret attempting it. One living proof is Kevin Hines, who shared his suicide attempt from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Kevin says that “The millisecond my hands left the rail, it was instant regret," and he is very lucky to be alive.
Contrary to what many believe, suicide has nothing to do with the urge of wanting to die, it just about not wanting to live.
The reality of it is that no one gets to tell someone who is suicidal what they should and shouldn’t do. No one gets to decide if suicide is selfish or not, because no one knows what someone might feeling. No one can tell the kind of pain someone is in. And most importantly, we do not get to blame those who died by suicide because we did not walk in their shoes.
The only thing we have the power to do is raise awareness, break the stigma and make sure to keep our hearts open to help those around us. Suicide is preventable, but action has to be done. We need to proactively work towards creating a kinder, more accepting world where people feel safe to speak up and ask for help. In addition, it is crucial that people around us can understand that a person who dies by suicide did not do it to hurt you, they did it because they believed there was no other way.
Breaking these pre-built misconceptions can be of great help to normalize the conversation. Be kind, help those around you and do not forget that we all need one another.
This year, the theme for World Suicide Prevention Day is “Creating Hope Through Action” and this serves as a way to encourage people to normalize the conversation and learn how they can help. But this should be the case every single day.
Suicide and mental illness should not only be spoken about on specific days, because they are part of our every day life. We need to shed light on them more often and learn how to help those around us every chance we get.
Let us do that, let us help one another and push through.
You do not have to go through this alone, please do not ever forget that. Getting better is possible and so is learning how to live. Hold tight, reach out for help and keep fighting.
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