I’m sure you’ve all seen it by now. The following post that is circulating on Facebook. It reads:
Many people think that a suicide attempt is a selfish move because the person just does not care about the people left behind. I can tell you that when a person gets to that point, they truly believe that their loved ones will be much better off with them gone.This is mental illness not selfishness. TRUTH: Depression is a terrible disease and seems relentless. A lot of us have been close to that edge, or dealt with family members in a crisis, and some have lost friends and loved ones. Let’s look out for each other and stop sweeping mental illness under the rug. If I don’t see your name, I’ll understand. May I ask my family and friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. Hope to see this on the walls of all my family and friends just for moral support. I know some will!!! I did it for a friend and you can too. You have to copy and paste this one, no sharing. thank you…
First let me say, I applaud the intention behind this post. We do need to be talking about mental illness and we do need to let those who are struggling know that they are not alone. Sweeping mental illness under the rug costs too many lives and feeds into shame & stigma. And it is so very true, nobody, not one single person or family, is immune.
So you may be wondering, why I myself haven’t posted this piece or why I struggle to click the “like” button on the pages of friends who do. I will answer you. It is because there is one line in this post that cuts me to my very core.
I can tell you that when a person gets to that point, they truly believe that their loved ones will be much better off with them gone.
One of the absolute hardest and most profoundly painful aspects of losing my father to suicide is the knowledge that at the end of his life he felt worthless. In those early morning hours, alone in a dark room, he was unable to see how much he was loved; even in his most broken state. He actually believed that in choosing death, in choosing to leave us, our worlds would be better, happier, freer. He died sad. He died believing he was of no value to those who loved him most. A tumor, a malignancy to be cut away. He died believing that he was a burden.
And I can tell you that knowing someone you loved, left this world with those beliefs about themselves, about their family, about you; is an absolutely devastating thing to carry. And it is one of the loneliest aspects of grieving a suicide loss, because how on earth can you explain to someone who hasn’t been through it, what it feels like to carry that knowledge day in & day out. You can’t. You can try, but the sadness that it imparts deep in your soul, is not so readily seen or understood.
The post is right, that lack of self-worth, that sense of seeing oneself only as a burden, a cancerous tumor to be cut away, is one of the most insidious parts of mental illness. But what it misses, what it doesn’t get right, is acknowledging that regardless of the illness, the burden of pain that survivors of suicide loss carry simply in the knowing of those feelings, and in the inability to challenge those horrible assumptions when it mattered the most, in those final moments between life & death, hope & despair, succumbing or surviving; hurts like hell. And when that is not a part of the dialog this FB post seeks to create, we as survivors feel further isolated, more alone in our grief, and more entrenched in that sense that people don’t truly understand what we are living with day in & day out. And shouldn’t we be part of that conversation? Shouldn’t our pain be acknowledged too?
I appreciate any and all attempts to start a dialog about mental health and suicide awareness. I’ll stand and shout things from the rooftop if it will save lives. But I’ve also had a far more intimate view of this issue. And I can tell you this as well…
It is what you do after you cut and paste this to your status that matters the most.
It is in the reaching out to a friend or loved one, neighbor or colleague in crisis.
It is in educating yourself to really learn the signs of someone who is not only living with mental illness, but at risk of harming themselves.
It is in asking the hard questions. Questions like:
Have you had thoughts of hurting yourself?
Have you had suicidal thoughts?
It is in knowing where to direct someone in crisis.
Knowing how to assess whether they have access to firearms or other means to hurt themselves.
It is in demanding better mental health coverage and support from legislators.
It is in demanding better support and access to suicide prevention programs in our schools, our hospitals & our houses of worship.
It is speaking out loud, not in whispered tones and quiet hushes about mental illness.
It is in asking, “How are you?” And it is in listening as they share their truths.
I appreciate a starting point, an introduction to this vital issue on Facebook. I do.
But not only is it not enough…
For some, like me, journeying through the grief of suicide loss, it misses a very big part of the conversation. It misses us…. At least that is the way I feel.