It is with a heavy heart that I write yet another post on suicide. This week a family friend committed suicide. Having just spent an evening with him a few weeks ago, laughing and telling stories, hearing his plans and excitement for future projects, it doesn’t make sense to us, his wife and kids or the many many friends that crowded into their house last night to share our grief. Upon greeting each other, most of the time words were not even exchanged, just really long and hard hugs, because what can we really say? His mother – who I had never met before – I hugged for a full minute before even introducing myself. What do you say to a mother who lost her child by his own hand? There are no words.
He was loved by his wife and kids and many, many friends. Sometimes love is not enough. He was very talented and gifted in his career. It was not enough. He had a healthy diet and exercised every day. But you can’t yoga it, marathon run it or low-carb/paleo/vegan it away – the battle is not in the body but in the mind. Family, friends, work, health and exercise are all good things, but very often help from a mental health professional is needed. You need to say out loud to somebody who can help those dark thoughts that play a loop in your head, over and over again.
Contrary to what we might have been taught growing up about what it means to be strong, vulnerability is the best measure of courage. We need to make mental health a part of everyday conversation. The answer to “How are you?” may not be “Fine.” And if it isn’t, don’t say that it is. Be vulnerable and uncomfortable in your feelings. Own your pain, confusion or detachment from life; it’s the first step. And then tell somebody. And if you are that somebody that they tell, listen and get involved.
Today we went to the beach, his favorite place, to the very spot where he died. We sat and prayed and said goodbye. And as I stared at the ocean and looked seemingly into infinity, I thought about life and how we’re all connected beyond our physical death, for infinity, in all the people that we leave behind.
I can’t believe that we won’t see our friend again but he lives on in all of us, in his friends, in his wife, in his boys. I know that God did not want this but I do believe that he will use it for good. Perhaps someone who’s been wrestling their own thoughts will now seek professional help. Or someone will ask “How are you?” and really care about the answer. Maybe sharing this story will help someone who reads it.
If you’re ever feeling so low (or so high) that you have thoughts of harming yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or simply walk into your local hospital emergency room. And if you know someone who you suspect is feeling this way, there are some warning signs to look for and ways that you can help.