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The Greyhound

An important rant on an important topic: Suicide Awareness Week


As National Suicide Prevention Week comes to a close, there are a few things I would like to get off my chest. First of all, I am so thankful that we live in a nation where this is an annual campaign. It should obviously be something we campaign for every single day due to its massive importance, but I am glad that we have an allocated amount of time to remind people to think about, inform themselves, and engage with other about mental health, suicide prevention, and warning signs.

However, even within these discussions, there are a few things that I think are not being talked about.

Throughout the week, I have seen multiple posts on social media about suicide and its relation to bullying. People have posted asking others stop bullying, how bullying is killing teens and young people, and how during this week, we need to watch what we say to people. It is great that everyone wants to make others aware of this problem, because yes, bullying is a major problem.

Yes, many news stories that we hear are about young people committing suicide as a result of what others did or said to them. Bullying needs to stop, and it is absolutely horrible that young people feel that taking their own life is the only way out.But keep in mind that not only young people are affected by suicide. Bullying is not the only factor when it comes to taking your life.

Adults also feel that suicide is their only option, and it can be for multiple reasons. This can include—and is not limited to—depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, paranoia, family problems, abuse, childhood trauma, and so much more. Also, you can’t tell that people are struggling with these issues just by looking at someone. They aren’t going to post about it on social media or talk about it with others. A lot of time, these are things many do not seek help for.

We need to raise awareness for all factors that could lead to someone taking their life. We need to talk about mental health and stop thinking of it as weird or as someone simply seeking attention. Mental health is a real thing, people!

These stigmas are major factors as to why many do not seek help. So many times, I’ve heard people say things like, “He/She goes to therapy? That is so weird.”

“Did you see the cuts on her/his legs? They are such an attention seeker.”

“She/He is on medication? They must be crazy.”

This is SAD. It is sad that we look at others with problems like these and think of it as weird or a means of seeking attention. We need to be open to listen and help those who come to us asking for help.

Not only this, but these things are not something to be idolized or sought after. You should not think suicide, self-harm, or depression are beautiful. Sure, some poetry or art work can be beautiful, but this shouldn’t be something you think is cool. It is not cool.

The same thing goes with the expression, “I’m going to kill myself.” First of all, why is this an expression that is used? Most of the time, it is an exaggeration.

“Oh, if this happens, I’m going to kill myself.”

We need to stop throwing that phrase around. It is not something that is funny or that should be joked about. It is a very serious thing to say. It is not okay to joke about it or just say it for any reason. You never know what the people around you are going through.

Now, I am not just going on this rant for no reason. I personally have mental health problems of my own, and that is not the only reason I am so passionate about this. In March, my family friend, who we (my brothers and I) considered our aunt and second mom, suddenly lost her battle with mental illness. No one saw it coming. Many did not even know she was going through anything.

She had been through so much in her life, and was the most selfless person I ever knew. She left behind her husband, two sons, 21 and 19, and a beautiful daughter, 17, as well as many friends and family. She was an active member in church, her children’s school, and the community. And now she is gone. At 52 years old.

She lost her battle to this disease of mental health, just as others can lose a battle to physical illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer’s. It isn’t about just being “sad” or “overdramatic.” This is a real disease. A real sickness that can take the lives of those you love.

It is easy to blame yourself when this happens to someone you care about. It is easy to blame the care she was under, be upset with her, call her selfish, blame it on the Devil, and more. But in the end, we all know it was not Aunt Betty who did this. It was her mental illness.

She was not herself in the end. She was not the soul we all knew for all those years. She had lost her light. I wish I could have spoken to her one more time. Let her make me on more dinner. Talked to her about my own personal struggles so maybe she didn’t feel so alone. But it’s too late now.

I have two tattoos that are very important to me: a semi colon and a “fleur de lis.” A semicolon is placed where a sentence could have ended and it didn’t. This is for my own mental struggles. Whenever I see it, I am reminded that my life has not ended. I have endured so much, and yet my story keeps going. It helps me to be strong in times of struggle.

The “fleur de lis” is for Aunt Betty. It is on my ankle, so wherever I go, she is with me. She will always be a part of my life. While I wish she was still here, I know she is watching over those she left behind, making something really good up there for us to eat when we see her again.

I want to live in a world where suicide doesn’t exist. I want to live in a world where people are kind, mental health is cared for, and people can confidently seek help and receive proper care for what they are going through. I want to live in a world where no one feels as though death is the only answer. But until then, we must all raise awareness about this tragic epidemic that is affecting people of all ages, gender, race, sexual orientation, political party, for reasons beyond bullying.

You are not alone. You are strong. You are wanted. You are needed. You are important. The world needs you here.

If you ever need help or need someone to talk to, I am here. In addition, please seek out the various resources we have on campus, especially the Counseling Center.


Feature Image: Courtesy of Emma Hagedoorn

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An important rant on an important topic: Suicide Awareness Week