I’m going to get serious this week and talk about a very serious and scary subject—suicide. I’m sure everyone has heard about the recent suicides of Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Chester Bennington (Lincoln Park singer), and more others than I can list here.
It breaks my heart hearing about people who appeared to have so much going for them and yet they felt hopeless. While it’s easy to judge that life is easy for those who have money or fame, it just isn’t so. Depression doesn’t care about your bank account or any other status in your life. Depression is a disease. And it’s hard to understand. Someone dealing with depression doesn’t always look sick. Some people are really good at hiding the symptoms.
Growing up, I watched my mother face this issue and in the past, she has tried to kill herself. Luckily, my mom got the help she needed. But so many don’t.
Suicides are up by 25% since 1999 and are now the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 in the U.S. The experts are asking why, and of course there is no easy answer. Bullying, sexual violence, and child abuse are often sited, but those forms of violence haven’t increased in the last two decades, and if anything, they have gone down. They also point to the rise of technology, which has replaced important face-to-face interactions (though some argue technology actually decreases loneliness).
We need to remove the stigma connected with mental illness, which has increased in recent years. Educate yourself on the 5 signs of suicide: personality change, irritability or anxiousness, withdrawal, not taking care of yourself and hopelessness. And if the person feeling this is you, know that you aren’t alone. Know that you can get better. You don’t have to live like this. You can get help.
I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from people telling me that my books have helped pull them out of a dark place in their life. I’m thrilled to hear that. Reading is good for the heart and soul. But I know sometimes even losing ourselves in fiction, leaving our problems at bay for a while, isn’t enough. If you need help, reach out to someone close to you.
And if you know someone who may be in trouble and are exhibiting the five signs, encourage them to get help or get help for them. Let them know that you care. Watching the news yesterday I heard one doctor say, “Don’t be afraid to use the word. Tell them that you are afraid they might be thinking of suicide.” It’s hard to say it. It’s hard to think about it. But it would be a lot harder if we didn’t say it and it happened.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).