I saw a poster today advertising a “Walk to Stop Suicide.” “You can make a difference,” it said.
How is taking a walk going to change the minds of people who think their life has no value? More likely, it’s going to convey the message that having suicidal thoughts means something is wrong with you, and you should be ashamed of yourself. It’s going to further marginalize the people it claims to help.
You know what might actually make a difference?
If we were to start encouraging others to be open about how they really feel. If we didn’t always expect them to have a positive mindset. If we were accepting of depression, grief, and anger, and stopped avoiding them like ebola. If we acknowledged that it’s normal to be depressed sometimes—and that many of us have had suicidal thoughts.
That way, people would realize that they’re not all alone in this.
A few months ago, an acquaintance of mine committed suicide. Although I had never even met him in person, it came as a great shock to me, because he was in a similar place in life as I was, and we had numerous mutual friends. As I discussed the event with these friends, some powerful revelations came to light: nearly all of them, including myself, had at some point dealt with suicidal thoughts. Yet we had suffered in silence, because it’s not okay to talk about that. It’s that lonely suffering that is the most dangerous.
Knowing that others are struggling with similar troubles eases the burden. And once you can talk about these things, you start to find solutions. You realize that life is indeed worth living.