This week is World Suicide Prevention Week.
Weather or not people know about it, take it seriously, or realize the scope of the issue, suicide is something that is very, very real.
WSPW, then, is a chance to talk openly and honestly about something that affects each of us in some way.
Can I throw some stats at you?
- Someone dies from suicide in the US every 13 minutes.
- This comes out to 38,000 lives per year.
- Not including the 250,000 yearly survivors.
- For people in my age group (15-24), suicide is the second leading cause of death.
- This number is more than those who die of cancer, AIDS, heart disease, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and lung disease COMBINED.
- Over 80% of those who take their own life at this age show clear warning signs.
I could go on, but honestly, if this doesn't hurt your heart then I don't know what I can do to make you understand how very real this is.
I have almost lost two people very close to me to suicide, one about a year before we became friends, and one with whom I was close at the time. And these are just the individuals I know about.
In serving in a position of leadership last year, I handled the topic of suicide with numerous different individuals on countless occasions.
I can honestly say that there were chapters in my life that I wasn't so sure I was going to make it through alive.
Now can I take a hot second to dissipate some myths?
- People who commit suicide are NOT inherently 'crazy'.
- They may suffer from very real medical conditions and chemical imbalances, be going through unfathomable amounts of emotional turmoil, or have any number of other factors lingering just beneath the surface.
- Talking about suicide will NOT an individual more likely to make an attempt.
- Honestly, if you have reason to suspect someone may be suicidal, the likelihood is that it has already crossed their mind. You're not giving them ideas. Instead, you're giving them a safe space to process everything they're dealing with.
- People who talk about committing suicide are NOT always just looking for attention.
- A vast majority of those who end up making a suicide attempt have exhibited clear warning signs. Knowing the warning signs and trusting your gut when you're speaking with the people you care about could very easily save a life.
One of my favorite nonprofit organizations, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), does a campaign every year for WSPW.
This year, the slogan is
"We'll see you tomorrow."
Can I tell you how much I absolutely love this?
So many reasons, so much good, wrapped up into a simple, four word statement.
It establishes a personal connection between the speaker and recipient (We'll see you), it gives a concrete time (tomorrow; insinuating that 'you don't have to hold on for forever, one day at a time'), and it tells the recipient that they're not in it alone, that they are surrounded by a team of people who love them without limits, who need them in their lives, and who will fight alongside them.
The campaign then challenges you to find your own reasons to hold on.
I'll see you tomorrow because ___________________________ .
Why will you all see me tomorrow?
Because my story is not over yet. Because there is so much more I have been called to. I have not been so much 'pulled from' death as I have been 'redeemed for' life. Because I have chosen to fight every day, to have honest conversations with those around me, to spread awareness and bring hope in my own subtle ways, to use my voice to build others up, and to always believe in the promise of a better future.
I'll see you tomorrow.
And every tomorrow, Lord willing, for many years to come.
Because hope is real, help is real, and each of our stories carries so much importance.