This week I am continuing my look at mental health in America by focusing on suicide and the toll depression can take on the body and mind. This is a highly personal subject for me, and hopefully, by sharing my thoughts and story, it can help others have the courage to share their struggles. There are many people struggling in needless silence. End the stigma.
Suicide: The Silent Epidemic
This year the music industry lost two notable rock stars. Chester Bennington the lead singer of Linkin Park, and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, both to apparent suicides. A lot of people will say things along the lines of “drugs were at fault”, ( a fact not confirmed in either case.) or “Boo Hoo, another privileged celebrity killed himself, oh well. Didn’t they have it all?”
The sad fact is both of these men most likely struggled with depression, which is often the case with highly creative people. “Having it all” doesn’t make you immune to mental illness, in fact, it can contribute to the isolation that puts a further strain on a person already tired of running from their demons. (Think about it, always having to be at your best, live up to expectations, and always be ‘on’ so to speak. Never a moment to yourself)
There is no doubt that drug abuse can lead to depression and suicide, or depression and suicidal tendencies can lead to self-medicating with illicit drugs. But, there are many societal and biological causes of depression. That is why understanding the illness and getting help is crucial.
Each year 44,193 Americans die by suicide, 121 suicides per day. (www.afsp.org) Even scarier, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24. And each day in our nation there are 5,240 attempts in the age group of 7-12! (prp.jasonfoundation.com) If that doesn’t convince you of the incredible public health concern that mental illness and suicide is, then I don’t know what will.
Even with all these sobering statistics, the huge stigma of mental illness makes the majority of people suffer in silence, never giving voice to their pain. And it doesn’t have to be that way. But like everything else the fear of being ostracized and singled out keeps us silent.
This fear is especially hard to overcome with the huge influence social media has on our population. You see this especially in adolescents. Cyberbullying can be tied to an alarming amount of adolescent suicides. The pressure to keep up with, the oftentimes unrealistic, expectations we see on social media has been tied to increases in individuals seeking treatment for depression. The amount of time we spend on social media robs us of valuable personal interaction that can starve off depressive thoughts.
Who does suicide effect? Look around you. It affects all of us.
Us. The millions that have to fight every day to stay alive because of the fear that dwells within us. The fear of never being enough, of letting people down, of being found out. The debilitating effects of depression and anxiety and many, many, other conditions.
I can’t speak for the millions out there, but I can speak for myself. I don’t know what causes the demons in my mind, and deep down in my soul, to deceive me with their lies. Some days I don’t even know why I wake up crying, or despondent. All I know is I have to hide it, put on a smile, and take care of my kids and my work. Somedays the overwhelming weight of the world and everything in my mind is too much. And those are the days I struggle to hold it all together when all I want to do is hide my head under the covers and cry.
It’s really scary when the feeling that ending it all, and giving in to the darkness, will make it all go away. Sometimes it would be all too easy to slip away. But those are the moments when I look at my kids, and they keep me here. I can’t let them down.
I know all too well that despondent feeling. I stand on that narrow ledge and watch, watch the word go by never knowing how to explain the despair I feel. Feeling alone and lost, anxious and numb. Feeling like nothing I do will ever be enough. Maybe that’s how Chester Bennington felt.
It doesn’t matter how much money, possessions or fame someone has. They can still hurt. They can still be on that ledge, one small breath from taking the plunge over the side. Who are we to judge?
If you need help please reach out. To a friend, a family member, anyone you need to. Scream for help if you have to. You can’t do this alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255