Today, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day. September is Suicide Prevention Month. However, suicide prevention can’t be just about one day or one month. We can save lives, but first we must break the stigma.
We don’t talk about suicides, but if we did then some of the statistics would likely shock people. Suicide by gun accounts for close to two-thirds of all gun fatalities in the United States. On average, there are 129 suicides a day. On average, 22 of those suicides are veterans. Men are almost 4 times more likely to commit suicide. And these statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.
So many politicians and lawmakers talk about the need to save lives. They talk about gun violence, but ignore that suicides account for the majority of gun deaths. They talk about a strong military, but forget about individuals once they’ve left the service. And when will it stop?
World Suicide Prevention Day, Suicide Prevention Month, these cannot be one-time things, but instead must be the start of a conversation that continues indefinitely.
And I know, I know that it isn’t an easy thing to talk about. It is tragic and unthinkable whenever someone dies before their time, but it shocks the conscious when one dies by suicide. It is unpleasant. Some would say it is a sin. Others would say it is a weakness. Both are wrong.
Suicide is a symptom, one that could be prevented in many cases if there weren’t such a stigma. It is a symptom of depression and other forms of mental illness, yes, but also a symptom of a society that can’t bring themselves to talk about it. If we treat society’s view of suicide, maybe we can reduce the prevalence of suicide altogether, but first we have to talk about it. And that is on all of us, including me.
I’ve never been actively suicidal, but I’ve wondered who would miss me when I was gone. I’ve cared so little for my life at times, I’ve been close to taking that next step. If I am being honest, it is only because I didn’t want to be a burden to my family and friends that I never crossed that line. It scares me now, with the benefit of therapy and medication to know that I might not be here today. I think of all the things I would have missed along the way. Yes, there have been hard times when I could barely handle the pain, but there have been brilliant days where it seemed like the sun would never stop shining as well. And now, in retrospect, I know it would have never been worth trading those good days to eliminate the bad ones. And that is what I still tell myself on the dark days when I can’t see my way out of a depression.
Being honest about my darkest moments isn’t easy. I suspect some people will turn away from the ugliness of it. Yet, I am still here, and that is beautiful. And more than that, if I am really, truly lucky, maybe these words will find their way to someone who needs to hear them, and I’ll help pull someone back from the edge. I’ll help someone ignore the fatal little lies whispered by their demons.
And if you talk about it too, the likelihood of that happening grows. And if we all talk about suicide, if we break the stigma, than maybe suicide will become a thing of the past. But it takes all of us. And I can only hope that today, this month, this year, that it is just the start.