Suicide is trending.
Of course, we all know there is another option. But it takes attentive and loving people to remind a suicidal person that it’s there. Believing suicide is a viable option is a state of mind. The cause could be anything. But what it boils down to is that exact moment when the person decides to go through with it.
Perspective is everything. I’m not saying it’s simple. I’m just saying a person’s perspective on things can change. And that change in perspective could save a life. I posted “Cuz Fish Bowl” a few months back. I didn’t say it at the time, but a lot of the inspiration for that post was my own experience.
You may be wondering why I’m writing about suicide as if I’m some sort of authority on it. I don’t claim to be an authority on it. So what do I have to offer?
“I can still remember how Kurt Cobain’s self-inflicted gunshot made me feel in high school. It wasn’t that far removed from a school friend who did the same thing around that time. I remember wondering, ‘What could be so bad that you would kill yourself?'”
There are dozens of articles online about checking on your “strong friend.” The person you know who seems to have it all together, provides advice, organizes things, yada yada yada. To a lot of people, I’m the “strong friend.” At least that’s what I’ve been told. I’m the leader who gets things done, the lawyer with answers and a willingness to help those in trouble. People lay their troubles on me. I always try to help. They contact me with questions about marriage, parenting, running a business, dealing with depression, you name it. And I’m happy to help and usually have an answer or the ability to find it. So I guess that part of me is real. I am the “strong friend.” But something else is true, too.
I once had a really weak day.
I’m not going into all the details or the “why.” I’ll just say it was the biggest and lowest learning experience of my life. If you know me personally, it probably comes as a surprise. Now I look back, without that cloud over my vision, and I say to myself what were you thinking?
I personally think Val Kilmer’s words on Anthony Bourdain’s choice are well-intended and well-said. People who don’t see it that way are misinterpreting him. A lot of what he wrote are the same things my wife once said to me. Things like, “Yes, you’re in pain, but you can’t just make decisions like they won’t ruin the lives of others. Let me help you.” In one moment, she managed to show me empathy, but also remind me I had responsibilities.
Celebrity suicides, in reality, are no more devastating than every-day people suicides. It’s just that more people know about it because they’re a celebrity, so they seem more devastating. The list of celebrity suicides in the last 18 years alone is shockingly long.
I can still remember how Kurt Cobain’s self-inflicted fatal gunshot made me feel in high school. It wasn’t that far removed from a school friend who did the same thing around that time. I remember wondering, “What could be so bad that you would kill yourself?” Over two decades later, I felt like I figured out the answer. But thank God I was wrong and someone was there.
Years later, my family and I were vacationing in South Padre when I saw the news on Robin Williams come across the screen over a complimentary hotel breakfast. And it was the same reaction from everyone. Why? Everyone pointed to depression. We find out years later he had a debilitating illness called “Lewy’s Body Dementia.” His wife said depression was one of 50 things that made Williams take his life.
Since his death in 2014, there have been notable others. And just this week, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.
Think about that. Look how “successful” they both appeared on the outside. Look how “strong” they appeared in business and socially. But we find out later that Kate Spade had been suffering for years with mental illness. Who around you appears strong and put-together and not at all at risk for considering opting out? Or . . . are you another “strong friend,” harboring something inside that you feel like no one would understand?
Heather Brown, a suicide prevention expert says that the best thing to think about is that it could happen to anybody, no one is immune. Suicides are rising at a rate of 25% since 1999. In 2016, 44,965 people took their own lives. Although the “22 a day” statistic is disputed, veterans of recent conflicts across the globe are killing themselves at a high rate, with over 7400 veterans taking their lives in 2014. There are countless reasons different people decide to kill themselves. We can never know exactly why anyone does it. Or why so many do it.
Shocking, to be sure. And it’s even more shocking that because of the stigma surrounding suicide it’s underreported. Which means the numbers are most likely even higher than what’s written above.
Almost 45,000 people take their own lives a year. I’m not naive enough to believe we can stop them all. But I am hopeful enough to believe that if more people are paying attention to the people who seem to have their lives together, maybe we can prevent more of them.
We need to be more aware of what’s going on in the lives of the people we claim to love and care about. That’s the bottom line. Because even the strong people get weak. I had my day and thankfully the rock in my life was there meet me. Who do you know that might need you to be their rock?
Thank you for stopping in.
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