3:23 AM and I am wide awake. I typically read when I can’t sleep, but my nook is dead. So here we are. Insomnia is a funny thing sometimes. I am so exhausted but my mind just won’t stop. It’s been a while since my thoughts has been this loud. I suppose because I am so passionate about what today is, actually what this week is.
Today is National Suicide Prevention Day. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the overall suicide rate in America is at a 30 year high. This means more than 800,000 people die by suicide around the world every single year. On top of this number, the CDC claims there are many more suicide attempts that go untreated or unreported. The CDC also says that at least one million people in the United States engage in intentionally inflicted self-harm.
These numbers are staggering and heart breaking. Many of these statistics could have been prevented. But because of the ignorant stigma surrounding mental illness, many people in desperate need of help do not seek it. There is clear scientific evidence that is incontestable that a physical connection exists with most mental disorders, many people still stigmatize others because they stupidly hold on to the misguided beliefs that people with mental health disorders are weak, crazy, or lack will power. Many people who need help do not get it because of this stigma. (Have I mentioned I loathe stigmas?) So they live their lives with untreated illnesses, like depression, anxiety, PTSD. And this unfortunately can lead to suicide.
There are so many things can be done to help eliminate this deadly epidemic in the world. First and foremost, if you need help, seek it now! It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, the only things that matters is you get help. Second, if you have never struggled with a mental illness, I’d like to ask you where do you stand? Are you encouraging the stigma or are you helping eliminate it? Be part of the solution, not the problem.
Suicide, depression, anxiety, and all other mental illnesses need to be things we talk about. The truth is, everyone alive experiences pain in their own way. Everyone struggles. We are all human. We need to all stand together to face the hard stuff.
The past two years have been a combination of the worst and best times of my life. At my lowest, I was on the verge of giving up, actually I wasn’t on the verge. I stepped straight into oncoming traffic. I was reckless, I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live either. I was at a dangerous crossroad that ultimately landed me in a psychiatric inpatient facility. But through all of that, I was given another chance. My struggles never got easier, but I slowly became stronger. “And so I kept living.” (Que Matt Haig’s book Reasons to Stay Alive)
I kept living even though every day I struggled with anxiety, depression and feeling lonelier than I’ve ever felt before. I felt ashamed of my story and how I felt. This week is important to me because not only does it raise awareness for suicide prevention but it also helps raise awareness for mental illness. Because of organizations like TWLOHA and support from my true friends (and countless therapy sessions) I started embracing my story and not believing the stigma of suffering from a mental disorder.
The author of the book Reasons to Stay Alive wrote, “I think the statement is just a declaration that life is not always going to be the same, that when we feel we are in the bad place we have to ride if out, because there will be many better times, many better versions of us, which we can reach simply by holding-no KNEW- everything would get worse. It didn’t. Depression lies. And I found beauty in life after I thought it had been made extinct.”
My point in all of this is simply, I struggled. I let the bad situations and sadness pull me into the darkness. It was a really long time before I was able to escape that life. I let the pain of my sadness and loneliness convince me that I wasn’t worthy. That I was alone. That I would never be enough. So I want to tell you, that I know you are facing a bad situation right now. I know you are struggling a little. (Or maybe you aren’t, maybe you can just help raise hope.) But hear me when I say- I’ve been there. And I made it out the other side.
You can make it through. No matter what you have going on. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep crawling and scratching and fighting until you make it to the other side. You are never alone, just ask for help. Reach out to others, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. One of the key symptoms of depression is to see no hope. No future. But that is a LIE. There is hope, there is a future. Please just give yourself the chance to believe it.