So far, we’ve covered what suicide is, signs and symptoms, how to start the conversation, and how to provide help. Today, we’re going to come at this a bit less clinically to address another piece of the suicide prevention puzzle: hope. The following essay was written by our current Youth Mental Health First Aid AmeriCorps member, Alex, and posted originally on her blog.
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Fact: Every thirteen seconds, one person in the US dies by suicide.
Fact: Last year in the US, 9.3 Million Adults (18+) reported having serious thoughts about suicide
Fact: Two million adolescents attempt suicide annually, resulting in 500,000 Emergency Room Visits
I have spent the past nine months reciting facts like these to rooms full of individuals learning them for the very first time. Although these facts aren’t new to me, they once were, and that feeling has stuck to my insides. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and today is a day that always reminds me both why I started and why I keep going. In other words, why you’ll see me tomorrow.
I’m not sure how I got here (because paths aren’t straight and roadblocks are real and I’ve been lost in the woods once or twice), but I am sure that I cannot stop. From friends whom I’ve known for decades or strangers on trains whom I’ll never see again, I carry years and years of other people’s stories inside of me. Though separate from my own, they are a part of me and a part of how and why I am who I am. We all are stories.
I choose daily to keep my story going. I have big reasons to live and some days I list them out and other days I call them on the phone, but I don’t question my answer, my yes to life. Maybe the choice isn’t so difficult for you, either. Today isn’t so much about us, then. Today is about – is for – those for whom this choice is NOT easy.
Over time, I’ve come to know some things:
I know that hope is real even when we can’t see it. Shadows mean that light is shining nearby, and as frightening as it is, it is okay to hope.
I know that there are people who love you. Like hope, love exists even in the dark, and like matter, love can’t be destroyed. It can change hands and it can change shapes, but we all change shapes as we grow. Your flaws make you all the more human and all the more worth this love.
I know that you are not invisible and I know that you don’t want to be invisible. You may wear your mask well, but we see you and we believe that you deserve to be your authentic self.
I know that it’s okay to not be okay. You do not need to be happy for anyone. You need to be true to what you feel, and if that is sadness or anger or fear or guilt, you need to be heard all the same.
I know that recovery is possible. That a diagnosable illness can mean a bumpy road, but a bumpy road to healing is a powerful one. The more we know, the easier it is to overcome.
I know that asking for help, that taking that first step is terrifying. I also know that once you get past that first step, walking gets a bit easier. You’ll need easier walking for your bumpy road.
I know that good does not exist without bad. That although good things have to end, bad things also must eventually back off. This does not mean that you won’t be kicked when you’re down. Sometimes you will be and maybe that sometimes is right now. Even so, you will not be down forever.
I know that there are hands waiting to help you up from wherever you are. Take them. They are filled with hope and attached to people who need you to be okay.
I know that whomever you are, wherever you are, whatever yesterday was and whatever today is, you deserve to see another tomorrow, to continue living your story. You deserve to feel how you need to feel and you deserve to know that you cannot be replaced. When you’re ready, you deserve to feel joy. Thank you for being you. No one else in the world does it quite like you do.