Taking a mental break (or at least telling myself that I am) from the Swedish election chaos, to discuss something else that’s important, too.
If I’m being honest, this is a topic that I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, I’ve written draft upon draft, but I’ve always ended up scrapping them. Considering that today is World Suicide Prevention Day, however, I’ve decided to give it another try.
When it comes to suicide, I’ve always gotten the impression that it’s something that you’re not supposed to talk about. Firstly, it makes people super uncomfortable. Secondly, it’s considered a selfish act and thirdly, it’s talked about it terms of weakness. These aspects really bother me. You don’t have suicidal thoughts because you’re selfish, the act in itself is not selfish either. Of course, if someone commits suicide, it has an enormous impact on people close to them. However, the person committing the suicide is the victim, they were suffering and for whatever reason living didn’t seem like a viable option anymore. We can never truly understand what goes on in the mind of someone else, hence it’s not something we can or should judge.
for everyone you meet
is fighting a battle you know
When you’re struggling with these thoughts it’s not about ”hey, I just don’t wanna live anymore, and I don’t care about those surrounding me.”
→→The society we live in is supposed to offer us support when it comes to things like these. Which is why we need to be open about it and work on it. There should be a much bigger focus on prevention! We need to catch the signs early and when we see them we need to act and be able to rely on a functioning health care system. For that to be possible though, we also need to change the perception and rhetoric concerning suicide and suicidal thoughts. If people feel ashamed to talk about these feelings, they won’t be able to get the help that they need, simply because they’re too reach out to anybody about them.
To be able to catch the signs early we need to educate people. Not only to see the signs, but to be able to adequately handle and deal with such a situation. People, like myself, who work with people, need to have more knowledge and tools. We need to know how to act and how to respond to a person with suicidal thoughts. In my opinion, these people need to be met with respect and it’s important to never diminish or judge their thoughts. It’s important to validate, be present and to listen! Routines and protocols should be discussed and developed, in schools and in work places where you connect and work with people, so that there’s never any doubt about what do do.
→→When it comes to the rhetoric I’m sick and tired of hearing the words ”selfish” and ”weak”. We need to STOP talking about suicide and suicidal thoughts in terms of those two words. Especially the word ”weak”. If anything these people have often struggled with depression and/or different traumas; you don’t go from feeling perfectly fine one day, to committing suicide the next. These people are often super strong, people who have been battling with others, but often themselves too, for such a long time that, ultimately (and sadly), they couldn’t take it anymore. Furthermore, these people, I believe, are often those who have very high expectations on themselves. They wish to please everyone and be perfect in the eyes of many if not all. How is that weak? Haven’t we created (and keep maintaining) a society that puts a lot of pressure on how we act, how we dress, how we look, what schools we go to, what education level we have, to name a few — no, these people aren’t weak! When we belittle these people—because yes, that’s what this particular rhetoric does—the only thing it does is damage! It makes it even harder for people to take that first, and often crucial step, to talk to someone. How many lives might have been saved, had we only talked about this differently? We’re taught to be strong and I believe many struggle with keeping up this facade. We can’t even admit that we’re depressed, or even sad, which furthers a stigma about mental health and illnesses. We fight adamantly to never be put into that box, so much so that we overlook the warning signs and then suddenly we’re there. We all struggle from time to time, after all we’re only human. Not even celebrities are immune, which we’ve seen lately, a lot of famous people have sadly passed due to suicide: Avicii, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, to name a few.
I’ll be honest, in the spirit of sharing and being more open about these things, I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts, too. It started around the age of 15 and those thoughts came and went. It wasn’t until around the age of 25 that I felt that they stopped. That’s not to say that it has never crossed my mind after that, in fact, after my dad died those thoughts did resurface for a while (though not at all in the same way that they did when I was a teenager). What changed around the age 25? I don’t know, I think I started to find myself and feel slightly more comfortable with myself. My body, my skin and myself in general. I know, that probably sounds so cliche, but it’s true. Most people don’t know this, but it chose my placement of my first tattoo strategically. On my left wrist. The wrist where I used to cut myself. It was both a statement and somewhat of a challenge to myself, I could do this! And you know what? I could. It wasn’t like I regularly self-harmed at the age of 25, that was mostly during the ages 15 to 18, but it happened. Like a panicked ‘go-to’ when things felt really bad and I was overwhelmed, when I didn’t feel good enough for different reasons. I’m happy to say that with the help of close friends, my ex-boyfriend, my current fiancé and with a lot of help from myself; I’m better now. It was super hard to talk about at first though, I felt like a failure and people referred to me as ”sensitive”, which made me feel like I was weak and a failure. That’s not what you need to hear. Which is why I’m urging you to be respectful and mindful in the interactions with people who struggle with these thoughts. If it’s difficult and uncomfortable, because you don’t know what to say, I promise you that listening goes a long way!
→→Be kind, look out for each other! Whoever you are, you who are struggling, never apologize for the way that you feel! To shove those feelings deep inside of you, burying them, pretending that they don’t exist, it won’t do you any good. I promise. Try to find someone that you can talk to, whether it’s a friend, a colleague, a classmate. Whatever you do, just remember: you’re NOT alone and it WILL get better!