Suicide. A single word, which invokes fear, shame, misunderstanding, anger, confusion and a stigma equaling the weight of the Titanic. It will cause who you think are your closest allies to go running, so fast, it is as if they are being chased by the burning flames of a rapidly spreading bush fire. The word is associated with selfishness, with weakness and with a lack of willpower. The reactions to the word run the gamut from “that’s ridiculous, who thinks about that” and “what is so wrong in your life”, to “how self-centered you are” and finally “I can’t deal with this”.
Suicide. The action generates feelings of grief, terror and trauma. It carries the misconception of irrationality, instability and egocentrism. It will cause your relations to judge you, hate you, love you and mourn you. It will leave them with questions that will remain unanswered for perpetuity, for the only true motivation for your action perished when your life flame extinguished.
What makes this word materialize from an assemblage of letters, to a culmination of ideations, to an objective, to a precise action of irreversible finality? STIGMA. The topic of suicide is still taboo, disapproved and in some places, forbidden. One may be strong enough to disclose their diagnosed mental illnesses, BPD, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, just to name a few, however, when one reaches the absolute darkness of self-extermination, it is as if their tongues have been cut out, eliminating the capacity to even verbalize the word suicide. The fear in sharing the darkness of the ideas and emotions that run through the self-destructive mind is so immeasurable, that letting go of the rope that has kept you from falling seems effortless. The angst of judgment, the trepidation of rejection and the fear of hospitalization often making the ability to ask for help an insurmountable chore.
The stigmatization of the word itself has to end, in order to see any reduction in the number of actual actions. Very few wake up one morning and spontaneously choose to end their lives. Suicide is a result of traumatic and horrific experiences that have festered in the mind and soul since occurring. It is the complete and utter loss of hope, strength and desire to exist. The thought of the action becomes the only hope of ending the unremitting pain and suffering that is tearing you apart like a lion mauling its prey. The survivors you leave behind questioning why you left them, why you did not reach out for help or speak the words “I’m feeling suicidal”, yet the answers, for you, come as easily as flicking on a light switch. Fear and stigma. No one climbs a ladder from the first step to the top without the rungs in between. The same could be said for suicide. It starts at the bottom and slowly creeps up until it not only reaches the top, it jumps off and drags you with it.
What if the thoughts of suicide could be as openly discussed and accepted as the myriad of mental illnesses? What if someone could safely and honestly express those ideas and emotions with no fear of condemnation or repercussions, while still on the ladder’s lower rungs? Would it help decline the speed of the ascent or perhaps eliminate the need to reach the peril that lies atop at all. Could becoming educated, understanding and less judgmental of one single word effectively make a difference in a single life, or even in societal views? Is it possibly as straightforward and uncomplicated as that?
As a suicide survivor, I will answer the above questions from my perspective. Yes, it is as simple as that. In most instances, the people on the top rung will jump off before you even notice they started to climb. Their ascent so rapid it leaves not even an indication of a footprint. They are silent, focused and prepared, their actions usually a success. The others climb at a slower pace, leaving behind traces of their emotions and intentions while screaming ever so quietly for help. They wish for someone to hear them and provide a sanctuary for that one deadly word. These are the people that could be helped if we reduced the outside noise in our lives and took a moment to focus on the silence. Listen carefully. Pay close attention as the cries for help are there, and truly hearing and finding them could not only be a preventative measure but actually save a life.
So if you are at the top and at risk of immediate of danger, hospitalization or intervention is a must. If you are at the bottom and feel yourself gradually and uncontrollably making that ascent, STOP. Reach out. Scream it, shout it, write it. Express it without shame or fear of repercussions from the ignorant. Know that someone, somewhere is not only listening, but hears you. Know that as much as you feel it, you are never alone. Know that by reaching out, your voice can start a momentum so powerful it instills the same fearlessness in the masses.
Destigmatizing begins with you, right here, right now. After all, it is only a word.