As I’ve said, September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, hence why I have been talking about suicide these last few days. And it is so important to talk about suicide so that we can hopefully end the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. Yet we need to make sure we talk about suicide in the right way and be mindful of why it can be such a hard conversation.
What I mean when I say that we need to talk about suicide in the right way is that we need to be mindful it can be a difficult conversation for some. We need to know our audience and know when to respect those who aren’t ready for the conversation yet. Moreover, we need to use the right words. For example, people die by suicide, they don’t commit suicide. Suicide is the worst symptom of mental illness, not a choice that someone makes to “take the easy way out.”
People who are suicidal don’t want to die, they just think they can’t live with the pain they are in. They think that things won’t get better. But it does.
I’ve said before that in the past, during my darkest days, I was passively suicidal. Although I didn’t have a specific plan to die, I was in such a dark spot that I stopped caring about whether I lived. The pain, the disconnect I felt with the world around me, all led me to feel like no one would miss if I were gone. It led me to wonder why I was here just to be in pain.
I numbed that pain with alcohol, not caring about the impact that alcohol might have on my own health. I never got behind the wheel unless I was okay to drive, but never stopped to wonder about why I wasn’t okay or consider what could be done about that.
And it is hard to talk about. It is hard because the stigma suggests that I should be ashamed about these dark times. It is hard because I am afraid of what the people I love will think of me when they hear this. Yet they don’t judge me for symptoms of other illness and they don’t judge me for this because they support me unconditionally.
I fear that talking about these struggles might cause them to be concerned about me, concerned that I might slip back into that dark times. And there is always that risk, but I know how to manage the darkness better than ever before. And honestly, I wouldn’t be talking about it now if I wasn’t strong enough to discuss, to overcome that stigma that wants to silence me.
And hopefully the people who I chose to open to about these issues realize I am doing so because I want them to know me better, including knowing my jagged edges. And hopefully others realize that benefit when it comes to opening up about their experience.
Because talking about it can be contagious. The more we open up and have these hard conversations the more others will be empowered to do the same. And the less power stigma will have. We just need to make sure we talk about it in the right way.