Each time the suicide of someone reaches the front page or owns more than a few minutes of video on your favorite 24-hour news channel, there comes a natural public outcry. People, myself included, reflexively share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Then, comes an emotional plea for those suffering from suicidal ideation to reach out if they are struggling. We put the weight of asking for help on the shoulders of someone going to war with a mental health disorder. While this moment of openness comes from a good place, it is wrong, and we have to stop it.
Instead of placing the burden of asking for help in a moment of weakness on the shoulders of a person dealing with depression while clashing with impossible thoughts, we should shoulder some of the weight. How? Simple. Pick-up the phone. By picking up the telephone you can save someone’s life.
In a world mired in status updates, tweets, perfectly edited photos, and social media accounts where we only present the best versions of ourselves, it is easy to be blindsided by someone who completes suicide. We assume because of their public persona that the inside must match the outside. We assume wealth, success, and how someone presents themselves must be barriers keeping a person from crossing a precipice for which there is no return. This assumption is one of the things that keep us from checking in and having a conversation that can change a person’s whole world. Despite all of our advancements in human communication, we’ve created valleys and rivers of loneliness. Now, more than ever before, real conversations matter. Inflection, nuance, and pace matter; things that can only be known via the phone or face-to-face.
One of my biggest regrets in this world is not picking up the phone. For almost an entire year, I didn’t speak to my youngest brother. I was mad, disappointed, and hurt. I needed to get over myself. I needed to grow up and be the brother he needed. I didn’t and now he is gone. I have no way of changing the past. All I can do is decide to be better and then follow through on it. Of the myriad of things I have promised myself and my brother, I promise to call more often and have more meaningful conversations. So, get ready for your phone to ring!
When confronted with the depression, mental illness, and/or suicidal ideation of others, we don’t have to feel helpless. There are small, little things we can do. The most basic of them all begins with a simple conversation followed by listening without judgment. If we do that and we do it well, I truly believe we can save a lot of lives from suicide.
Be good to each other,
I've never asked readers for financial support before. I am committed to keeping content on this site free and open to all. For me, this means no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what I create, please consider making a contribution on Patreon.