It’s been a few days since Robin Williams’ death and it’s got you thinking about suicide. Just a few months ago it was Philip Seymour Hoffman. And before that it was Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, designer L’Wren Scott. It’s always a shocker. Why would someone do something like that, especially when they’re so successful? Was it finances? Depression? Who knows, but it’s crazy how it’s becoming more and more common. So you have to ask, What’s up with all this suicide?
You think about the economy and how we’ve been in this depression for years and it’s a known fact that when money’s tight people start losing their minds. Nobody likes to be broke. You remember sitting in class in high school, reading about all those people who killed themselves during the Great Depression and it seemed so silly. Why jump off of a building just because you ain’t got no money? Your family didn’t have money and ya’ll were fine.
But then you grew up and did pretty well for yourself financially, and life was good. Then one day the economy changed and money started evaporating from your account like a drop of water on a hot blistering day and suddenly you knew firsthand the feeling of powerlessness that comes from not knowing how you’re going to pay rent or any of the bills that keep piling up like magazines that you promise yourself to one day read. As humans, we long for security. We need to know how we are going to eat and when we don’t life can start to feel like a nightmare.
So maybe finances had something to do with it. You read that Robin Williams was having money problems and L’Wren Scott was supposedly on the verge of losing her business. It would make sense.
It’s so sad because you wonder if they tried to talk about it. Did they ever say, “Hey, I’m thinking of killing myself?”
It occurs to you that people don’t talk about suicide. In fact, they get downright weird at the mere mention of it. One time, a few years back, you shared with a couple of close friends that you were thinking about it (remember that dark financial time?) How everyday you prayed to God for something to change but he seemed to be on a permanent vacation. On a good day you wished that you could go to sleep and wake up six months later when things were better. On a regular day you wished you were dead. When you finished your story, both looked at you like you had just fallen naked from the sky.
“Haven’t you ever thought about it?” you asked, surprised.
“No,” they both answered, making you feel like a freak and causing you to wonder if some things are best left unshared. But if you couldn’t talk to them then who?
The funny thing is, you never forgot about that conversation. Were they even telling the truth? Somehow it seemed natural to have the thought. It didn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but when life starts to feel like you’re in The Shining isn’t it natural to want to check out?
Hmmm…since people are a little more open to the conversation these days, bless you Robin Williams, it might be a good time to ask some friends…
“Have you ever thought about suicide?”
“That’s a personal question,” says your friend of twelve years, forgetting that he’s told you things that would probably get him put in jail, but this is personal?
After a thoughtful pause, he comes back with a resounding YES.
He was 19 years old and struggling through a breakup with his first love. “It was a pain that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The kind that goes with you wherever you go,” he says of the six months he spent in a deep depression. “At one point, I wanted to die. I figured that would feel better than what I was going through.” It was for his family that he ultimately decided to stick around. He believes that we owe it to the people who love us to be here for them, and anyone who kills himself is a selfish, coward of the worst kind.
It got a bit heated because on one hand you agree, in fact, it was because of your mom that you stopped thinking about it. It would kill her if you did something like that. And your Granny too. She would have died. And you also know that when people kill themselves it gets injected into the bloodline and becomes a generational issue. A friend’s sister-in-law battles depression and has attempted suicide and not so surprising is that her mom and grandmother both killed themselves. Perhaps each generation feels that she’s not really that important. You felt that way when your father wouldn’t get off drugs. Why couldn’t you be enough reason for him to straighten up? What does that say about you? So, yes, it’s f*cked up for the people they leave behind and the issues run long and deep. But at the same time, everyone’s threshold for pain is different and you would never judge a person or call him a coward for seeing no other way out. It’s personal. Nobody can get into your body and battle through your pain; and sometimes neither can you.
It’s a point that gets driven home when you call another friend that you’ve known for about five years. This girl always has a story, each one more incredible than the last, but she never told you about the time she tried to kill herself. She was twelve years old and her mother was on crack and she spent everyday fighting with her sister. That she was having sex with grown men didn’t help either. The environment was off the chain. One day, after a brutal fist fight with her sis, she went into her room and took a bunch of pills. “At that moment I was so frustrated and tired that I wanted to die.” She ended up in the hospital getting her stomach pumped, and while there she was given some psychiatrists who helped her figure out how to cope with her mom and sis. Now in her 40’s, she’s never looked back. But it’s the teens that she’s most concerned about because they’re the ones who are actually doing it. In fact, she has two friends whose teens killed themselves last month alone.
Damn. That’s freaky! You get online to check out some stats and discover that over 5,000 teens try to kill themselves every single day. That’s the kid that sits next to your kid at school. It might even be your kid. This suicide thing is much worse than you thought!
So what’s the answer?
Well, off the top of your head, maybe we could try to be more open about it so people would feel less like freaks. Honestly, you respect your friend more now that you know she tried to kill herself because you see how strong she is today. If we could just talk about it we could see that having these thoughts are normal, and maybe having tried it is normal too, because the truth is it’s happening all around us and this secrecy is not doing us any good. Aside from that, if a person is talking about it and you don’t know what to do, and let’s face it, most of us don’t want to talk about it because we have no idea what to do, just listen and try to encourage them to get some professional help. You never know when something that simple might save a person’s life. Because as normal as suicidal thoughts are, do we really want actual suicide to be the new norm?
By Erickka Sy Savané