“There’s going to be days when you don’t want to be here anymore. There are going to be days when you just don’t want to be here anymore. You just stay. You f*cking stay. Somewhere out there, somebody needs your voice. I promise. Your laughter is someone’s saving grace. Hold on tight, baby. The sun is coming for you.” ~ Erin Van Vuren
I know many people who live with daily thoughts of suicide, including someone who is close to me.
The one thing that strikes me with each one is their immense strength to continue to stay and live, despite their minds barraging them with harmful thoughts about why they should end it all and leave.
These incredible souls who are in constant battle with a powerful and controlling darkness, are not weak—they are some of the toughest and most resilient people I have ever known.
Only those who are either going through, or have gone through, an existence where your main concern is trying to silence overbearing voices in your head persistently attempting to convince them that they, and everyone else, would be better off without them on this planet, knows the amount of mental strength it takes to carry on and try to heal.
It is courageous and brave to keep going despite depression, anxiety, stress, or chronic pain, along with a concoction of toxic chemicals and hormones infiltrating their lives to the extent that they consider suicide a viable option.
That is not weakness—it is sheer determination against unimaginable illness that may not be visible but is valid and extremely real.
When we shame people by labeling suicidal thoughts as a sign of weakness when a person is doing their damn best to survive, we only add to the problem rather than showing compassion, empathy, and support to help them through their dark times.
When people lose hope and the will to live, yet their heart still beats to survive against the odds, it is a sign that they are clinging to the possibility that there may be a small chance for improvement.
Telling people to just “toughen up” or to “get over” whatever it is that is poisoning their mind, is futile, and, in my opinion, beyond cruel.
Holding their hand and letting them know that they are loved, appreciated, supported, and significant in the world will achieve far more than judging and berating what we do not fully understand.
There is so much social stigma around expressing suicidal thoughts and feelings that many people don’t reach out and talk freely about what they are experiencing, and tragically this can be one of the things that leads people to feel alone and as though how they feel is “wrong.” This is why it is vital that we re-frame and change the perception about suicidal thoughts.
One reason people are unable to comprehend how it feels to be suicidal is that generally we fear what we don’t understand, so we prejudge what is unknown as something to be afraid of; therefore, we become scared to even talk about it. Instead of this, we could open up and accept that we do not need to be experts in anything to be able to listen and be compassionate and supportive. The only thing we need to keep in check is our willingness to harshly judge or condemn things we have no personal experience with.
Persevering in life when your body, mind, and spirit is exhausted and wants to give up and give in to treacherous thoughts is commendable. The fight to stay alive when life has become overwhelming, and support and treatment do not seem to be alleviating the difficulties, is one of the hardest things to endure.
There are a variety of reasons that cause people to feel suicidal. When someone is suffering with agonising physical illness, we would never try to tell them they are weak for not being able to cope with excruciating, unimaginable pain. Yet, the opposite seems to be true when it comes to mental illness.
The people who experience suicidal thoughts are not weak and selfish. It is weak and selfish to dismiss those thoughts and think we know better about something we are fortunate enough to never have lived with.
To tell someone who feels suicidal to “stop being negative and think positive” is possibly one of the most harmful things we could say. Instead, we can offer them a safe space to talk about why they are contemplating suicide, and do as much research as we can so that we get a glimpse into how it feels to live each moment with chemical imbalances that cause chaotic and reckless thoughts.
From an outside perspective, it may appear that someone’s life may be perfect, but what’s on the exterior is worthless when the interior is intensely disturbed. When we hear that someone is feeling suicidal, let’s not think about what we would do, how we think we’d cope, or what we believe to be right for the other person. Let’s try to consider for a moment that we truly have no idea how it feels to live with someone else’s body and mind. No one else can truly ever know or understand.
I’m not an expert on the subject so I don’t hold all the answers. I don’t think anyone does. But, one thing I know for sure is when I look into the eyes of someone I love who has fought off suicide month after month, year after year, the one thing I see is strength—and desperation to not cause pain or suffering to those around them.
That is not selfishness, and it’s most definitely not weakness.
Some people feel broken, and some eventually break. Unless anyone knows the internal storms that they have weathered, no one on this planet can possibly judge them.
These suicidal people, who are part of all of our societies, and who many of us have either in our families, set of friends, or work colleagues, are some of the strongest people you will ever have the pleasure to meet. So let’s cherish, love, appreciate, and support them as best we can. The acceptance that they are incredibly courageous souls, exactly as they are, might just be the healing elixir they need.
For support and assistance in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. In an emergency call 911.
For support and assistance in the United Kingdom, call 111 or contact a local accident and emergency center, and ask for details of the nearest CRT (Crisis Resolution Team) team. In an emergency, call 999.
For support and assistance in Australia call, 13 11 14.
For worldwide online support, click here.
Please click here for a link to supporting someone who feels suicidal.
Author: Alex Myles
Image: Unsplash/Nick Fewings
Editor: Travis May
Copy and Social Editor: Callie Rushton