A friend of mine committed suicide yesterday. And I am still in shock. I didn’t know him long, but we spent hours and hours together talking and getting to know each other. I saw no signs of depression, no outward feeling or signs that he was headed to where he went.
He was young, seemed full of optimism, and was getting his shit together. I’m not sure if he had a mental illness — he never mentioned one, but suicide or even attempts are one of the markers. It’s a shame that in our society mental illness is treated like a personal failing. It’s a shame on the person, not a recognition that something is amiss that should be treated with compassion or as a broken wrist or chronic disease such as cancer or diabetes is. There is no stigma attached to having cancer or diabetes as there is with mental illness. Some people’s “answer” to those with the disease is “Shake it off,” “Toughen up,” or, worse, “Stop pretending.”
But mental illness can be fatal and rear its ugly head at anytime. There is no known preventative medicine or cure for chemical imbalances in the brain — just a lifelong of pills that can alleviate some symptoms.
If you take away anything from this blog, take away this: mental illness is not something to look down on or be ashamed of if you have it. Friends help immensely, as does communication of your problems and companionship in general.
If you know of someone with mental illness, diagnosed or not, or worse, if you suffer from symptoms learn the signs of what I call a distorted world view. Learn that some behavior patterns and erratic actions by some is a cry for help whether they know it or not. If you suspect a friend or yourself has symptoms of depression or mania, choose a time to sit down talk to them about your concerns and that they could benefit greatly from therapy — be it simply going in to a psychologist once every week or two and talking about what’s been happening in their life or going to a psychiatrist for medication in cases where a chemical imbalance is suspected. (Or both if symptoms warrant it.)
It is a matter of life and death. If you saw a person lying on the ground bleeding slowly you wouldn’t crack a joke and keep walking, or ignore it. You would act if you are any sort of human being. Be it, informing the authorities or giving them aid and an ear.
And on a personal note, this is the third friend of mine that has died since September. Two to other more “accepted” diseases/problems that were being treated. One was a very close friend long ago and the other was a good friend for the past 17 years who was one of the kindest people I have ever known, and wished I knew better.
I’ve been going through my own problems and now they seem insignificant compared to the permanence that is death. While very sobering, it’s also a wake up call for me to set my houses in order and take better care of myself. It’s a reminder that suicide causes more problems than it fixes. Friends are left in shock and grief. Family is neglected and those left in its wake are forever changed.
Any sudden death is hard, but preventable ones, ones where the person chose to do it, are the biggest tragedy.
“We lose one and their light goes out of the physical world and we are all diminished by it.”
That is all.