Recently based on a recommendation from my sister, I read an essay by David Sedaris on the suicide of his sister (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/10/28/now-we-are-five). In the essay he makes a statement which has haunted me for a few weeks. In reflecting with his dad he questions how she could leave all of them. The following lines were profound:
“I don’t know that it had anything to do with us,” my father said. But how could it have not? Doesn’t the blood of every suicide splash back on our faces?
Recently another person I know was impacted by a loved one dying by suicide. My heart aches and is in pain for the person. I hurt not because of just the immediate pain, but the pain that will continue for years. I ache thinking of the stigma and shame that is often associated with suicide. I cry another person is now a survivor of suicide.
When I was discussing these things with my sister and how the David Sedaris quote keeps running through my mind, she responded:
Until all of society acknowledges the blood then we keep drowning in it – us personally and as a society. Unfortunately the splashes keep happening, and the wave keeps getting closer to people who have otherwise been unaffected.
She summarized the yearnings of my heart. While we often don’t see the splashes of blood or we pretend they are not there, suicide in our society impacts all of us. We ignore, we ignore, we ignore it, until it has flooded over us and then we must look at it.
How many deaths are too many? How young is too young? When will any of this make us as a society take a closer look at suicide?
May is mental health month and while you might not think suicide directly impacts you, mental health impacts all of us. And you not standing up for mental health and suicide prevention is part of the problem. Yes you. Your silence contributes to the problem. While you think you are just ignoring something, in reality you are standing there with blood splattered on you. Please don’t wait until you are drowning to speak up, to be a voice. Please don’t let you silence and ignorance cause shame and embarrassment for someone. And even more, stop judging those who suffer from mental illness or die by suicide. Your judgment and comments only reinforce negative stereotypes. You are responsible to help put an end to suicide. Ignorance is not an excuse.