Suicide is a tough topic to talk about, but if we want to make a difference, talking about it and extending our hands and ears to people who need support is half the battle in suicide prevention, writes Dairne Black ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day.
I used to have double maths on a Thursday afternoon in school. I hated maths, I was no good at numbers. Thursdays would roll around, and often I could be heard saying ‘I’d rather kill myself than go to maths’. Would I have taken my own life rather than sat there for two hours and learnt about algebra? No. Was the comment a throwaway one? Definitely. Do we all say things like that? Yes.
It’s a glorious sunny day as I write this piece, a good time to be alive, a great time even. When isn’t a good time to be alive? It’s National Suicide Prevention Day tomorrow, and while I this piece is something I have not yet attempted before, it’s something I believe should challenge me as a writer.
Suicide is the taking of one’s own life. Out of all the deaths we hear about on the news, this for me is one of the most heart-breaking and difficult to deal with. Many say it’s a selfish death, and feel anger, bitterness and resentment towards the deceased. Teenager Dónal Walsh came to our attention in recent months when he expressed his anger at those committing the act of suicide. He himself was battling a disease, with a death sentence hanging over him and no control over when he died. He urged us, and in particular young people, not to take our own life. I know I’m not alone in saying I admired him, for his courage, bravery, and his outspokenness in the face of his illness.
We don’t know why people commit suicide. There are various reasons, and sometimes a note left, but ultimately, we don’t know. That’s what makes it so hard to understand. It’s unknown. We aren’t aware of what’s going on in their mind at the time of death. All we know is, that they must have felt that there was no return in terms of getting better and seeking help.
I’ve said it before in previous pieces regarding mental health, but talking is so important. Not just regarding mental health and the various illnesses, but also in day to day life. Human interaction is so crucial to our mental wellbeing.
There have been too many lives lost to suicide. Each just as valuable as the next.High profile deaths have been covered up, and various stories leaked to the media. It seems people still don’t really know how to handle suicide or deal with it. It still remains a taboo subject. You cannot, keep this ‘hush hush’. To do so, is an injustice to the victims and their families. We should not be ashamed of suicide, and we should try not to feel anger towards those who decided to take their own life.
Look at the recent death of Robin Williams. Will he bare the label ‘suicide’ for the rest of his legacy? No. He’ll be remembered for his work, his humour, his talent. Remember the person, not the act. The same with the recent suicide of popstar and former X Factor contestant, Simone Battle. We remember the her beauty, her voice, and the person she was.
We need to talk about it, it’s that simple. We also need to be aware of it. It is unfortunately common, and anyone can be a victim to the aftermath of a suicide, whether it is a family member or a friend. There are too many lives lost on a day-to-day basis. I’ve been using the term ‘victim’ throughout the piece because that’s what those who commit suicide are. They’re the victim, they’re the ones who need help, they’re the ones who are fragile and vulnerable.
Who are we to judge someone else? We have no grounds to for the simple reason that we don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s head. It’s probably the reason Robin William’s death shocked us all. We thought he was a happy-go-lucky man, with not a care in the world. Only a few days previously he had posted something about his daughter. We never know what’s going on in someone’s head, unless we ask. Going back to my point about talking, communicating. We’re all for it when we’re happy and celebrating something. But, for many of us, when something bad happens, we go inside our head and shut others out. We bottle it up, we don’t talk. We ignore the problem, we let it manifest, grow, fester and ultimately get worse.
I’m the first to admit it, when things go wrong, I will initially lock it away, until eventually it gets drawn out. Even at 25 my Mum has still been subjected to 2am chats for various reasons. As someone who has an A+ in worrying, it’s good to talk about it. I still hate doing it, because, in typical fashion, I’m scared that people may not take me seriously, or that I’m being silly and dramatic (sometimes I’m being the latter, so apologies!).
The thoughts in your head, they’re just thoughts, and sometimes there are black days. Awful, dark and grim days, when getting up, showered and dressed feels like the biggest success in the world, which, it is, because no problem is too big or small. They’re all relative. No-one is more important, we’re all equal. Some may be suffering more than others, but it’s still suffering, and still a struggle. It’s about not letting these thoughts consume you, and seeking help or advice. You have the power to take control of your own body and mind.
On World Suicide Awareness Day, I urge you to speak out for yourself and for others around you. Say the word ‘suicide’ and banish this ridiculous stigma we have around it, because we do. We’re getting better at talking about it, but more can and should be done. If you’re worried about someone, or in doubt, ask them, be there for them. Be that ear they need, or even sometimes, saying nothing and just being there is enough. Not everyone’s a talker, but knowing that someone is there, in their corner, supporting them, is what they need. Stand up, speak out and don’t be afraid. There are so many wonderful organisations out there working to help break the stigma of mental illnesses and suicide. As college students, you have the power to do some incredible things in college.
Make suicide prevention one of them.