As we all know, the topics of suicide and mental health have dominated the news for the last week. Following the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, we’ve all tried to make sense of what happened, and experts have all weighed in on things like depression and how to best help someone who is struggling.
What happens when some time passes and people start to “move on”? A few days go by, then a few weeks and then a few months. Before we know it, years have passed and, well, other things have filled the news and other headlines have captured our attention.
But what about the people who live those suicide headlines every day — the ones who don’t have the luxury of moving on to the next news cycle? How can we not forget them?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week. Yesterday, I shared my Harper’s Bazaar essay, but even now, I’m struggling to find the right words to say. I’m one of those people who know all too well that the pain that suicide leaves doesn’t just automatically go away once the news cycle refreshes itself. Losing my father to suicide is something I live with every single day, and I doubt its something I’ll ever “get over,” whatever that even means. Granted, I’ve worked hard to integrate my grief into my life so it doesn’t dominate my every waking thought, but there’s no denying that this hole left in my heart will be there forever. And maybe that’s OK?
Something else that is also OK? Keeping the conversation going surrounding suicide and mental health. In fact, I’d say that it’s more than OK — it’s necessary. Right now and especially going forward. We need to keep talking about the most basic signs and symptoms and about ways to get help (especially if you can’t afford it) and how to talk to someone in crisis and common myths and misconceptions and how we can become an advocate and how rates are rising and, in particular, how rates are rising faster for women than for men. Also, we can’t forget to keep talking about the very way we talk about it all, especially for journalists and why it’s so important to learn about responsible reporting.
In short: TALK, TALK, TALK, TALK.
Luckily, I have so many writer friends who have been publishing wonderful pieces on suicide and mental health this week. I was going to include these in tomorrow’s Link List, but this is such an important conversation we’re having, so I thought it deserved its own post. Here are four must-read essays that are making a difference…
“When my mother died, I felt isolated; I couldn’t remember knowing anyone personally who had lost a loved one to suicide. Since then, I’ve learned that several friends had faced such loss, but their families had wanted them to keep the circumstances silent; since then, a few of my closest friends have lost loved ones to suicide. It’s a common form of grief, just not a commonly talked about one. It helps to know we are not alone. It helps to talk about suicide loss, to give this often-stigmatized grief air and light so we can process, heal, and let go of lingering ghosts of shame.” —Gayle Brandeis (“How We Talk About Kate Spade Could Help Others Survive“)
“I won’t share the details of either death but a quick perusal of the news reveals every suicide coverage mistake: details about how they died, quotes from Spade’s suicide note, stories that examine their deaths but fail to provide information about suicide prevention resources to save others’ lives. We know suicide contagion is real. We know how to write responsibly about suicide, but we aren’t doing it. And every time I read one of these articles, I wonder who else is reading it and hope to god they aren’t on the brink. I hope that learning we’ve lost yet another life to suicide won’t leave them feeling as hopeless as I feel.” —Jody Allard (“Suicide Contagion Is Real So Why Aren’t We Writing About It Ethically?“)
“Depression lies. It tricks you into believing that your death wouldn’t devastate your loved ones but liberate them. It doesn’t feel like you’re abandoning them; it feels like you’re freeing them from the burden that is you and your illness. You feel like you are doing the world a service by leaving it. Suicide becomes a misguided act of selflessness, the furthest possible motivation from selfishness. Kate Spade was wealthy, famous and successful. She had anything and everything she could ever want. Except mental health. Her brain wasn’t functioning correctly.” —Jen Simon (“To a Deeply Depressed Mother, Suicide Isn’t Selfish…“)
“If I were speaking to someone else who felt this way, I would say, “It’s OK. You can be 100% grateful for your life and still feel depressed. Depression is not a choice. Depression is a chronic mental illness, and it doesn’t make you bad or broken or selfish.” And still, I struggle to believe that for myself. But I am working on it.” —Erin Khar (“I Have Compassion for Everyone Struggling With Depression — Except Me“)
[Photos via We Heart It]