September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide Prevention is a cause near and dear to my heart. A family member (my mom’s cousin, who was my second cousin) died by suicide approximately eight years ago. I have friends who have struggled with suicidal thoughts and have attempted. A family friend died by suicide this past year. I have struggled with suicidal thoughts myself, and have battled a rapid mood cycling disorder my entire life. Being a suicide prevention and mental health advocate is, for me, one of the absolute most important task I have undertaken in my life. It can literally save lives.
I’ve previously addressed the myths about mental illness suicide, the ones that create such a stigma and make the topic still so taboo to many. And addressing those myths is extremely important. But today, I would like to “speak’ directly to those who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, or bad depression, or are struggling in some other way. Here’s what I want to say:
I know you feel alone. Having a mental health condition can feel incredibly isolating. Depression often makes it feel like nobody will ever understand you. I know it’s dark. That right now, it’s impossible to see any light, any hope. I know you may even at times blame yourself for how you feel. Feeling guilty about your illness, the way it affects your life, and others in it. I’ve been there. Being ill, and then taking the burden of that illness on yourself, blaming yourself, can make the pain feel inescapable. I’ve felt that. I know.
But I am here to tell you that it is not your fault. You have an illness, and you are not alone. One in five people in the U.S. has a mental health condition. Twenty percent of our population is with you. Not perhaps experiencing exactly what you’re experiencing – we are all unique, as are our situations and illnesses. But we, too, struggle. We too, know the lies that depression can tell us, and how convincing those lies can be. We too know what it’s like to feel utterly alone in this world. To feel like you don’t matter, to feel like you aren’t enough.
And I bet you could look at so many of us and think, “Look, they still manage to ‘have it together’. They aren’t alone. They matter.” Or maybe you look at us and think, “They don’t have it all together, but they’re still doing so much better than I am. They’re strong, and capable and getting through this.” Well I’ll tell you something: we’re looking at you and thinking the same thing. We’re thinking how strong you must be to go through everything you do. We’re thinking how much you inspire us, motivate us, experiencing all you do and still fighting each and every day. Because you’ve made it through every day so far, and that’s incredible. Or maybe we’re looking at you and thinking how much you matter. How “enough” you are.
So please, if you are this person, sitting there in the dark, not feeling like there’s anyone who understands, who you can reach out to, reach out to me. Because I’ve sat there in the dark feeling that same way, possibly by your side, in reality or virtually, near you and so many others, but feeling so hopeless and isolated. And I’m here for you. Because you do matter. You are enough. And you are not alone.