CW: This essay discusses suicide. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting CONNECT to 74174. The world need you.
By Kellie Julia
The picture above is of three of my most favorite people, 2 are gone. My gram died at 93 of natural causes. My son died at 31 and there was nothing natural about it.
I gave my son’s phone away this week to someone who really needed it. It seems like an easy enough thing to do but I cried for hours after. I saved the last text message I had from him which said “I love you too”, that was 5 days before he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. That was 5 months ago.
I still wonder what would have happened if I had gotten to his house 5 hours earlier than I did, what if I would have begged him to please hold on just one more day. No matter what I did or said for many years I could not take his pain away. Believe me, I tried. Do I find comfort in knowing that he is free of pain, yes. Would I rather have him still in pain but here with me instead, yes. Do I feel that is selfish of me, yes. Many suicidal people believe that the world would be a better place without them. Is it? No! Mental illness is a terminal disease and it should be treated that way.
Suicide is among the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, approximately 44,000 a year. There were 23,000 documented suicides by May 1st this year in our country (I suck at math but it’s easy to see that we were already over half way to the average for the year and we weren’t even half way through the year yet). Suicide is on the leading causes of death list with cancer and heart disease. The most common cause of suicide is depression. Depression is a cancer for those who have it, it eats them from within. Depression is a heart disease for those that suffer from it because many of them have a broken heart. We live in Maine, a state with a higher than national average of suicides, the stats say that someone dies by suicide in our country every 16 minutes. Someone dies in Maine by suicide every 37 hours. But the average wait to get someone into counseling or some type of crisis program is 3 weeks. That is too fucking long people! When someone is desperate enough to swallow a bottle of pills, throw a rope around a beam, or slice their wrists open with a paring knife they probably have less than 3 minutes to wait NOT 3 weeks! Before you get done reading this it is likely we lost another beautiful soul to suicide.
Mental health issues are often misunderstood. Society tells these people that they need to “suck it up”, “get motivated”, “just be happy”. They can’t. My child starting showing signs of depression when he was in his teens. He started drinking to self medicate. The onset of depression and the issues that came along with it led to behaviors that were uncharacteristic of him. His depression led him to at times be a real asshole to those close to him and push them away. He lost friends. He lost jobs. He lost his license. He just kept losing and losing and losing. He would have periods when he was doing well, sometimes long stretches, but than his illness would take over and down the rabbit hole he went.
We spent hours at counselors, nights in the emergency room, sometimes we would just sit together and wait for the darkness to fade and he would cry. Once when he was 18 and having an “episode”, I was desperate, I called 911. Two state troopers came to our home. What I wanted from them was help getting him someplace that he could get “better”. What I got was a big dose of reality. They told me “He is 18 and unless he is actively threatening to hurt himself or others than there is nothing we can do”. At that point he was pissed at me for calling the police, he slung a backpack over his shoulder and left. He couch surfed for the next 6 months. I layed awake every night worrying and wondering where he was.
I still lay awake at night sometimes even now but not because I am worried about him or wonder where he. I know where he is. He is sitting on my mantle in a marble box. Obviously I know that the contents in that box simply hold ashes. I know that his light and energy are everywhere. What I don’t know is how do we prevent this from happening to others in the future. To your child, to your brother, to your friend.
Many would answer “medication”. Well guys and girls, several of the current medications that are prescribed for people suffering from depression list side effects like insomnia, fatigue, agitation, irritability, anxiety, and here’s the kicker……SUICIDAL TENDENCIES. WAIT! WHAAAAT??!! Okay, so medical professionals are giving patients who have depression medications that can induce many of the issues that they are already suffering from and could possibly be the pre-cursor to suicide. Again, WHAAAAT??!! I also mentioned “self-medicating” earlier, I truly feel that many deaths by “accidental overdose” should be actually classified as death by mental illness. Most people that end up addicted to substances started using those things to numb themselves from pain. Physical and mental.
I don’t know if I am hyper sensitive to the word suicide now and that is why it seems like I hear of a new one every day but I do know that depression does not discriminate. Rich, poor, old, young, man, woman, famous, unknown, it doesn’t matter. Depression doesn’t care, it will take you any way you are and break you into a million pieces leaving those who love you scampering around to find those pieces and constantly super glue them back together again.
So this is my plea, if you or someone you know (In my head I am saying this in Morgan Freeman’s voice) are suffering from depression SHOUT IT OUT! Depression and mental illness are REAL and can result in death. Mental health issues are not something to be swept under the rug or whispered about in the corner. Do I know the miracle cure for depression? No. But I do know that for many being active helps, eating healthy, sleeping regularly, being involved with community and family are all helps. I think one of the best things we can do for ourselves or our loved ones who suffer with mental illness is to get rid of the stigmas that surround it. There should be no feelings of embarrassment or shame, if you had cancer or another terminal illness would you be embarrassed?? Hell no! You would fight to stay alive. As a matter of fact there would probably be a Go Fund Me account being set up for you as I type! If your family members, loved ones or friends show signs of depression do not ignore it, do not think that it will go away on its own, do not think that because someone who has suffered with depression and is suddenly “happy” that they are “cured”. My son seemed happier in the last months leading up to his death than he had been in the past few years. Looking back now, we thought things were getting better and THAT was the BIGGEST misconception of all. He was happy because he had made piece with his decision and had a plan. He was suffering in silence like many people who have mental health issues do. Do not be silent. Silence kills.
Kellie Julia lives in Maine with her husband and daughter and a bunch of furry critters.