September is a big month for people around the world for a lot of reasons— Autumn is beginning, all the students are finally back in school, and we are headed towards the holidays. What is there not to look forward to? Even the stores are already beginning to stock up on Christmas lights, right next to the Halloween costumes. That being said, there is one significant detail about this month that many people do not realize— September is World Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
Now this is a touchy topic, whether suicide has affected your life or those around you in any way, it’s one of those things people really do not talk about. I want to help break that silence. There are 7.4 billion people in this world and somehow, according to NAMI, about 43.8 million adults fight against a mental illness at some point in their lives. Adults aside, about 20% of the world’s youth deals with a mental disorder within their teenage years, making the risk of suicide even higher. It is the second leading cause of death in ages 15-24. With so many people walking this earth and the amount of supporters we should each have, this number is far too high for a healthy or thriving society. No matter who someone is, young or old, black or white, tall or short, this can happen to anyone and everyone. 43.8 million adults and 20% of our youth… These numbers are far too high.
There are too many people taking their own lives.
It can be hard to understand, whether you go through it or try to help someone else cope with a mental illness on a daily basis, but there are ways to be able to help or find a new perspective. Last year during our poetry unit, I remember a student reading a poem called In a Beautiful Country by Kevin Prufer. There was one line out of the many that I caught onto and have never forgotten since: “A good way to fall in love is with a rope to catch you.”
I couldn’t help but feel something in that line— a need for air, for a breath, or for someone to catch the fallen before they hit rock bottom. Considering the poem was called In a Beautiful Country and this line regarded something many see happy or wonderful, it begs the question, “Is it really beautiful?” Ultimately, that is the irony of this line because maybe it isn’t so pretty on the inside. This society holds a lot of problems and even more so, a lot of stigmas that create more problems. America is “the beautiful”, however it is also full of stressed and depressed people; this is no longer okay to ignore or to ever shame others for. This happens and can happen to anyone. Isn’t the point of human kindness, to try to help make it easier, to make a change? Because sometimes there comes a point when those who are getting lost in the dark, when they cannot find their way out, they begin to believe that life isn’t beautiful— that maybe they do not deserve to live at all.
As awful as that reality is, for some people, even the “I love you’s” and the “I need you’s” do not mean anything. In some cases, none of it feels as if it matters when every day it is a struggle to get out of bed in the morning, to keep taking breath after breath… It gets hard when someone looks in the mirror only to see their reflection spitting back at them that their life truly is worthless.
It is hard to come back from that… From rock bottom.
Yet, the thing about hardship and absolute darkness is that there is always a way out. No matter how far down rock bottom really is, no one is ever truly alone. It may feel lonely, empty, pointless, and breathtaking… But you are never alone in anything. Those people saying the “I love you’s”, soon enough they might just say it loud enough to get it through someone’s head that it’s true— that they are loved, they are worth it, that they are here on this earth for a reason. That they deserve to keep breathing for nobody but themselves, they are worth every single breath they take and should never let anyone or anything make them feel differently. Especially not themselves. Because at that point, it’s not “black lives matter” or “blue lives matter”… It is that every life matters. Every single one.
Your life matters.
Maybe one day those going through this are going to wake up, turn on that radio station, and find the one song that reminds them that it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to fall apart every once in a while as long as they pick themselves back up again. It’s okay to get lost, to fall down, go break… How else do we find ourselves and the people who truly do care for us? We grow and we learn from the people we meet, the choices we make, and most importantly, the hardships we go through. Our lives cannot always go the way we want or be sunshine and rainbows every day, but it wouldn’t be what it is without a little bit of pain.
It shapes us into who we will become.
Now for those who say “just get over it,” or maybe “Just go out and fake it till you make it, cheer up already,” for some people, this is not “a little bit of pain.” It is a constant and it is not that simple. For those people, maybe it isn’t enough to keep changing that station every day or being with the people who usually make things easier, doing the things that usually get their minds off of it. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut and even easier to have a hard time finding a way out. For those people, I want you to know that it is okay to get help. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help or just talking it out with someone, there is no shame in being human. It is absolutely okay to not be okay, talk about it or find help. Whether it’s talking to a friend, a professional, or anyone you trust, there is always a way out.
This is life, it’s neither easy nor hard, simple nor complicated… Nothing is ever black and white anymore. Especially with things like this, there is a lot of gray area and people cannot fit into a box where if you check off all the right things you are fixed. Let me tell you all something: You are not broken. That poem claimed to be in a beautiful country and ironic or not, this world is full of beautiful people. Every single one of you have a life to live full of people who love you, breaths to take, and a future to fulfill. I want this post to do more than raise more awareness to this month, if you take one more thing away from it, I hope it comes down to this: You are worth every breath you take, every tear you shed, and every single smile you give. Never forget that.
Below, if you or someone you know ever needs assistance in a hard time or just needs some help, here is the Crisis Text Line which is a toll-free, nationwide 24/7 crisis text line. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24/7, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline for suicidal crisis or emotional distress. And lastly, The Trevor Project which is a nationwide organization that provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
And on a final but very important note, if anyone ever just needs someone to talk to, to not talk to, or just sit and exist with, I am always available no matter who you are, how I know you, or even if I know you at all. My email is on the site, firstname.lastname@example.org, feel free to reach out to me too, any time and any day. Because you are worth it.