International Survivors of Suicide Day
It was the eve of my 18th birthday when I learned my cousin completed suicide. I remember details about this night and the following day with exceptional clarity.
Life was a series of thens for a while after that. Then a birthday cake I didn’t want to eat; then gifts I didn’t want to open; then a funeral; then AP Exams; then graduation; then college. I don’t know when the thens blossomed back into life but they did, and Heather’s physical absence on this earth became the new normal, the new life.
The next time a suicide affected me was when my co-workers from Mind Springs Health and I were prepping for a major event to announce the groundbreaking of the new West Springs Hospital.
In a sick twist of irony, we were prepping for an event to announce that we would treat and rebuild the lives of more people who were experiencing mental health crises, when I picked up my phone and saw a series of text messages. A friend from college had completed suicide.
I had noticed warning signs in the years past, but I never spoke up and I didn’t reach out.
That evening, three of our speakers were unable to attend the event rehearsal, so I read their speeches for them. I tried to hide my shaky voice as I spoke powerful words about the prevalence of suicide, the power of treatment and the need for community involvement.
No one can be faulted for completed suicide that I, as so many others, have witnessed. But we can agree that treatment very likely could have intervened, and that we as a community need to speak up more often.
So on International Survivors of Suicide Day this is my promise to my family, friends, acquaintances and neighbors: I promise not to let the fear of speaking out of place or overstepping our boundaries stop me from reaching out to you. I promise to speak up and say the hard things that need to be said – to ask the questions that may be awkward to ask.
Have you had thoughts of harming yourself?
Do you have a plan for how you would do it?
I promise to follow through and be part of a community that cares deeply about your life.
Today, will you make this promise with me?