Trigger Warning – Suicidality, discussion of suicide. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, my heart is with you. I pray for you, I long that you see your importance, and the necessity of your existence. You are a beautiful and wonderful person, and you belong here. But this blog post may not be for you. With what I’ll say later in this blog, I feel hypocritical saying this, but you absolutely may reach out to me. God Bless you, friend.
As you may or may not know, September is suicide prevention week (although it may just be a week in September. Kind of depends on who you ask.)
I have an inherent problem with suicide prevention as a month month/week. It’s not a problem with the focus, which is suicide prevention. Rather, it’s a problem with the way we treat suicide prevention.
There are two specific times when we consider suicide prevention as a topic that needs to be discussed. The first is during a week/month/event like this. The second time that we focus specifically on suicide prevention is when someone famous commits suicide. During these times, we spend anywhere from the week to the month focusing on suicide prevention, and then walking away feeling that we accomplished something. We might share the Suicide Hotline number on facebook. We might change our profile pictures or cover pictures in solidarity.
If you’re one of those who does those things, know that I am not admonishing you. These are all good things to do to bring awareness to a cause. The problem is that oftentimes we stop there feeling that our work is done; that we’ve done our small part in contributing, and that we get to end our efforts there. But there is so much more work to be done.
My point is that suicide prevention should not be limited to one week where we focus on suicide prevention. Suicidal people don’t limit to their suicidality one month or week out of the year, so our efforts in preventing suicide can’t be limited to one week out of the year.
The next question might be: what can I do? What should I do?
For that question, I have a story.
During my undergrad experience I suffered several stages of bitter depression and suicidality. During these times I often wouldn’t want to leave my room. I would forget to eat, spend all of my time sleeping, and get none of my schoolwork done. If I’d have my way, I wouldn’t have left my room at all during these times, but my friends had a different plan for that.
One evening, my friend Mikah had invited me to go to the cafeteria with him, and threatened to call another friend, Anna, if I didn’t. I knew that if Mikah did call Anna, Anna would call security. So, to avoid that awkward intervention, I begrudgingly went to the caf with Mikah, but I wasn’t hungry, so I told him that I probably wouldn’t eat anything.
We sat down at a table in the cafeteria, where a friend was enjoying a bowl of soup. I sat down next to her and put my head down.
“There’s soup!” My friend, Andie, told me, pointing to her bowl.
“Okay Andie.” I said, with a small smile, but with all of the determination that I wasn’t going to eat anything.
“There’s soup!” Andie said, a few minutes later, gesturing towards her empty bowl. I shrugged again, hoping she would just leave me alone.
The thing is, though, that Andie didn’t leave me alone, just like Mikah hadn’t left me alone in his determination to get me to leave my room. A few minutes later I looked up to find a small bowl of soup sitting in front me, and Andie said, again, “soup.” She slid a spoon next to the bowl and watched me take the first few sips.
I hadn’t planned on eating; I hadn’t planned on leaving my room. During that time of my life, I regularly considered taking my own life. But my friends wouldn’t leave me alone. They wouldn’t let me slip into the loneliness that I had created for myself. They weren’t content to sharing the suicide hotline on my facebook, and then leaving me alone to wallow in my depression. They reached out. And their acts of reaching out are a huge part of why I am still here.
My point is that while raising awareness during suicide prevention week/month is important and can be extremely helpful, your actions in suicide prevention should not be limited to sharing hotlines during the week.
If you’re worried about someone, it is not enough to trust that they will see your facebook post. Call them, message them. Inviting them to reach out to you is great, but it’s so important to also reach out to them. I would not have reached out to Mikah, Anna, or Andie, but they reached out to me. They let me know that I am loved, that I am important, and that I am needed. And all of those things meant the world to me.
By all means, continue to share resources. Share the suicide hotline, let your friends know that you are accessible, but also reach out. Reach out to the people around you. The lonely people, the hurting, your suicidal friends, they all need you to notice them. Don’t be so wrapped up in sharing suicide prevention pictures that you forget to be there for those who need you the most.
We thank you that we are made in your image, and that you have a plan for each one of our lives. We long for your loving presence in our hearts and in our minds, casting out depression and thoughts that make us long for an end. We’re thankful for the ways that you have touched us with your compassion.
Help us to notice the people in our lives that yearn for our help and healing touch. Help us to be extensions of you, sharing your life and your love for those around us. Touch our hearts, Lord, soften them and make them to resemble yours. Give us eyes that we may see the hurting, ears that we may hear their cries.
It is your Son’s most Holy name that we pray.