"Hope is a necessity for normal life and the major weapon against the suicide impulse."
The conversation on mental health, mental illness, and suicide start with us. Here's my story: #TakeAMinuteChangeALife
Asking for help is something we're taught from a young age will always be acceptable. At some point, however, that message is truncated and the likely we actually will ask for help when we need it decreases drastically. For an abundance of reasons, namely our socialization based on gender roles, social class, etc., we opt out of reaching out when we need it most. But to what end? Wouldn't we be better off asking and receiving the help that we need, when we need it? Arguably yes, but that invalidation of requesting assistance also extends to others and their willingness to give said help. With the problematic tropes of picking yourself up, trial by fire, anti-coddling/safe-space etc. running a muck - there's a fear, both real and perceived to be real of asking for help. What if you ask for it, and no one takes you seriously, makes fun of you for it, or thinks you to be weak because of it? Why do the opinions of others matter more to us than how we see ourselves? They matter because we believe them to matter, and therein lies their power. What would happen if we reclaimed that power and gave it to someone who deserved it - ourselves? What would self-empowerment look like? What would authentic vulnerability, knowing our limits, and owning when things are beyond our control look like; how would that feel? What if we rewrote the narrative to say that asking for help is an act of bravery, boldness, and strength? Would we ask for help?
We need a culture shift, a reframing, a reprogramming if you will of what it means to give and receive help. We need to take care of one another, protect each other, and give what we are able to ensure others are okay. Individualism has its merits but there is strength in community. What does it mean to love your neighbor, to demonstrate kindness, and to be present with others? That means checking in - consistently, and be unafraid to do so. Fear, again, controls to much of what we do, or what we don't do. What is at stake though supersedes all our trepidation, warranted or imaginary. Check-in, ask how people are doing, and make time for conversation. Ask the tough questions, get real, go there. Get explicit, name what you experience or is being communicated to you, and act accordingly. Trust your gut, be vigilant, and be okay with making mistakes. Relationships, and reading people are hard, but they don't have to be. Push through the awkwardness, ignore the embarrassment, thrive in the discomfort and get real.
Questions to Ask Someone Expressing Suicide Ideation
- Say what you've noticed (unlike themselves, isolated, quiet, disengaged); express your concern and that you care (I care about you; I'm worried about you)
- Ask the questions
- Have you wished you were dead?
- Have you had any thoughts of killing yourself?
- Have you had these thoughts and had some intention of acting on them?
- Would you still want to die if your circumstances changed?
- Do you want to go to the hospital?
- Ask if its okay to touch; go with them to get help; call for help
- Is it okay if I give you a hug?
- Would you like me to go with you to get help?
- Is it okay if I call for help? (and know when do it anyway)
*Adapted from Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
It is Suicide Awareness month and it is time we do away with the taboo on mental health. The only way to eradicate stigma is through talking. We have to talk and even more so we need to listen. Our lives can be busy, or at least we say they are - what we mean to say is we are not prioritizing people. We have to put people first. We have to slow down, and pay attention. We have to make time and space for people to be vulnerable with us, and for us to do the same. We need to stop to take in our surroundings, how they are impacting us, and most of all how other people are doing. Keeping to ourselves keeps us separated and we long to be together. Be the person that say something, that does something, that is there being there. Ask is everything is okay, and know that that can be all it takes to make room for someone to ask for help. Strangers, friends, family, and partners alike - it's up to us to put people first, and to create those candid moments of disclosure. And when we get those moments to take advantage of them because they can be scare and fleeting. At some point we have to trust others with our truths and doing so we free ourselves from carrying all that we have in solitude.
There is no shame is asking for help. There is no shame in accepting help. There is no shame is seeking help. Mental health is a crucial part of our well-being. Mental health issues are real. Mental health matters. Mental health is part of all of our lives. Mental health is just as an important as our physical health. People deal with mental health differently, and all of the ways are valid. Whether it practicing mindfulness, counseling, therapy, medication, etc. whatever helps people feel and be better is okay. Mental health issues are nothing to be embarrassed by, and normalizing talking about them is to be benefit of all of us. Mental health issues, diagnoses, etc. are not the entirety of who people are, and people are more than one aspect of their identities. Vulnerability is the greatest strength we can possess, and sharing with others gives them the empowerment do the same. Help is normal. Hope is regular. Help is average. Help is for all.
Here's some resources for anyone dealing with a tough time, mental health issues, thoughts of suicide, etc. Suicide Prevention Resource Center; Active Minds Mental Health Resources; Crisis Textline
And in case no one has told you recently explicitly, this is for you. I want you to read this slowly and with emphasis. Let the words was over you and take them to heart.
Your existence is one of a kind. You are part of so many other people's lives. Your presence is necessary, wanted, and needed. You are seen, heard, and valued. Your actuality is authentic, genuine, and powerful. Your essence is irreplicable, unadulterated, and undeniable. Your impact is immeasurable. Above all else know that you are irreplaceable. You matter, not only to yourself but to so many others - believe that to be true and never let go of it. X