robin williams

What Robin Williams’ Suicide Teaches Us About How to Save Lives


robin williams
Williams at the 2011 premiere of Happy Feet Two | Photo via Wiki Commons/Flickr

It’s been two years since Robin Williams died, and I still can’t watch anything he’s been in without feeling a deep pang of sadness. For decades, we watched him play characters that touched different parts of us. The range of emotion he masterfully portrayed over the years  —  and in so many genres, though he was primarily a comedian  —  is no doubt why we felt so attached to him. Robin, through his work, reflected our various selves back at us :  hilarious and vulnerable, a little off-kilter, addled, wild, hopeful.

Now that he’s gone, it’s plain how ubiquitous his work is, how he infiltrated our hearts. Flip through Netflix right now. “The Crazy Ones.” “Insomnia.” “Good Will Hunting.” “World’s Greatest Dad.”

He certainly weaseled his way into my heart. I named my car Euphegenia, and I often find myself yelling, “Hellooooo!” the way he did in “Mrs. Doubtfire” after shoving his face in a cake to fool the caseworker when he’d nearly been caught masquerading as the fictional nanny. I could watch that movie on repeat.

I doubt I’m the only one still in shock. Robin Williams had everything. He had money, fame, power, adoring fans, and access to every resource imaginable. Why’d he have to go? And where does that leave the rest of us?

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That’s the thing about suicide: it doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have. It doesn’t matter how loved you are. The pain and the feelings of isolation build and build over time, and if something or someone doesn’t set you back on your path, you get trapped in the box. The box is filled with self-loathing, self-doubt, hopelessness, futility, the thought that you and your pain are a burden to every single person around you, and that they’d be better off if you erased yourself from their lives. The box lies. And when you get trapped in that box, it can feel impossible to get out. Sometimes it is. That’s when we lose the people we love.

the box lies movie poster
Photo courtesy Chris Maxwell

If losing Robin Williams  —  undeniably one of the most well-loved, greatest entertainers of our time  —  teaches us anything, it should be that none of us is immune to suicide. It should be that we are each responsible for, and have the power to bolster, the well-being of those around us. That we can form a net to catch those who might be struggling.

Mental health differences and suicide aren’t issues best delegated solely to mental health professionals. We’ve been sold a lie. Only two of our Fifty Great States have mandatory crisis intervention training for future behavioral health clinicians. Sometimes, the people we expect to be our experts are not experts, through no fault of their own. Compounding the problem is fear of liability, a dearth of resources, difficulty accessing the ones that do exist, and an overall lack of funding for mental healthcare. We’re in a dire state.

On the flip side, this leaves us with a unique opportunity and a tremendous amount of power. Every single one of us can save a life. We all possess the ability to reach out, to listen, to empathize, and to be present for those we love (and even for strangers in need), and using these skills can mean the difference between life and death. But it’s so simple as to feel counterintuitive. So, how do you do it?

Ask: If you’re worried someone is suicidal, ask directly, “Are you thinking about suicide?” It’s worth keeping in mind that asking the question won’t plant the idea in their head (a common myth), and that, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” is a completely different question that leaves a lot up to interpretation. Bonus: using that scary word (“suicide”) can subvert fear and lift the elephant off their chest, allowing a real conversation to happen.

Listen: If they confirm that they’re thinking about suicide, ask what’s going on. Don’t offer advice. Don’t tell them what they have to live for. Just listen, and listen hard. Validate their feelings. Tell them you love them. Tell them you’ll help them and that, if you can’t, that you’ll find someone who can.

Keep them safe: Ask what makes them feel safe, and how you can facilitate that until you can both figure out what to do next. Remove access to anything they might hurt themselves with. This is especially relevant to gun owners  —  offer to hold on to their gun(s) until they’re feeling better.

Be there for them: Ask them what they need. Is it a friend to watch bad TV with, help making an appointment with a therapist, a clean apartment, a week’s worth of meals, a yoga session, a friend to stay the night and keep them company?

Stay connected and follow up: Check in regularly. Send cat gifs, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, owls. Drop by. Take them out. Coordinate with other people they know so that someone is always in touch. Do your best to make sure they don’t feel alone. Research shows that keeping in contact after a crisis makes a huge difference.

Robin Williams once said, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” His words, his ideas, his characters created a number of entirely new worlds for us. He was our Genie. Our Mork from Ork. The English teacher we all wish we had.

Let’s change the world he left us with the idea that every single one of us has the power to save a life. Let’s make that idea a reality.

If you’re hurting, afraid, or need someone to talk to, please reach out to one of the resources below. Someone will reach back. Please stay. You are so deeply valued, so incomprehensibly loved — even when you can’t feel it — and you are worth your life.

You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800–273–8255 or Trans Lifeline at 877–565–8860 (U.S.) or 877–330–6366 (Canada). If you’d like to talk to a peer, warmline.org contains links to warmlines in every state. If you don’t like the phone, check out Lifeline Crisis Chat or Crisis Text Line. If you’re not in the U.S., click here for a link to crisis centers around the world. If you’re a suicide attempt survivor and would like to share your story, take a look at Live Through This.

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This Photo Was Taken After My First Suicide Attempt. This Photo Represents a Survivor.


This picture represents a survivor, a fighter, a warrior. This picture is me 11 years ago. The day after I tried to kill myself. This is my hospital intake shot.

Suicide is represented in such a horrible way. People say we’re selfish, that we’re doing it to hurt other people. Some people say we’re taking the easy way out. I’m here to tell you how it actually is.

First of all, we aren’t being selfish. In that moment, we honestly think we’re doing the world a favor — we think no one cares about us or that the world would be a better place without us, that people would be better off without us. Now, that’s not a selfish thought, is it? Didn’t think so.

We’re also not taking the easy way out. Living with depression or being suicidal is horrific. The pain is extraordinary. It is unrelenting, and it never leaves you alone. It is the stabbing in your heart. The fog in your head. The inability to get out of bed in the morning, in the afternoon. Having no energy to shower or make yourself look presentable. Keeping your distance from people, as much as possible. Nothing matters anymore. You don’t matter.

When you start to think about suicide it can be scary. Those first thoughts, they’re so new. But they stay, they don’t go anywhere and they get worse. More intense. You don’t know what to do with these thoughts. Until one day. One day you decide to act upon them. You just can’t take it anymore. Everything, all of it. You’re in so much pain and have been for so long. Sometimes something might trigger it, sometimes not. For me there was no trigger, I had just been thinking about it for so long that one day I decided I had to do it.

Luckily I didn’t complete my attempt at suicide. I still have frequent suicidal thoughts but no plans to act upon them. I have a strong support team and that support team is the difference between my life and death.

If you know someone who may be suicidal please, show them you care, and offer them help. It could make all the difference. But then, it’s also not always easy to see. We can become very good at hiding it. You just never know what people are going through. No one knew what I was going through until I ended up in the hospital after a suicide attempt. I was the master of disguise.

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If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

A man holding his daughter in front of car

To the Man Who Stayed With Me in the Airport After News of My Brother’s Suicide


Dear John,

The kindness and love you showed me yesterday will never be forgotten.

To you, I was a stranger. I was a babbling wreck.

You did not know my story, but you chose to never leave my side.

You didn’t say much.

You were just there.

See, I had just left Amelia Island, where my kids and I (and our cats) had been visiting for a few days. I was by myself, headed home. I had a meeting last night and was to fly to Baltimore the following day. I was driving on the interstate, listening to Michael Hyatt’s podcast, Facing Resistance. I have felt resistance lately in a few areas of my life. I always laugh that Michael writes to me. He did it yet again.

I was about six minutes into his podcast and my phone rang. It was my brother’s girlfriend. My immediate thought was that something had happened to one of my parents. She and I have a good relationship, but it is not common for her to call me at 11:32 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. She said she couldn’t get a hold of my parents.

I told her they were at home.

I asked her what was wrong.

Instantly, I knew it was my brother.

Never in my life could I have prepared for what she had to tell me. I begged her not to call my parents back. If they called her, then decline the call. This was not news they needed to hear over the phone. I needed to get someone there with them.

At this moment, I looked up and realized I was two exits from Jacksonville International Airport. All I knew was, I had to get to my parents. I had no clothes, other than the jeans and T-shirt I was wearing, and a pair of yoga pants and two T-shirts in my bag.  I didn’t realize this until later yesterday when I was on the plane. I hung up with her and wanted to call my dad’s best friend, Bill.

This is when I met you, John.

I pulled my car into the valet at Jacksonville airport. This is not something I would normally do. If I had been in my right mind, I would have parked in long-term parking. I just knew I had to get on a plane as quickly as possible. I was distraught when you and your colleagues saw me. I believe there were about five of you.

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I was crying and shaking. So much of it is a blur, but I do remember I couldn’t talk. I remember Michael’s podcast was still playing on my phone. I didn’t know how to get it to turn off.

I scrambled, grabbing anything I thought was necessary out of my trunk. My briefcase, my camera bag, my duffle bag, with only the few clothes and toiletries. I grabbed my purse and remember turning around to give one guy an avocado and two containers of Tzatziki. I had them in the car for a snack. And in that moment, I didn’t think I could take them on the plane.

You helped me carry my bags, John.

You asked me what airline I was flying.

I told you I didn’t have a ticket.

I had to find the quickest one.

You stayed with me.

You walked with me to four different ticket counters asking for a flight.

People were staring at me.

I was sobbing endlessly, and trying to make sense talking.

But John, you did not leave my side.

Standing in line, waiting on that Delta assistant, I finally called my dad’s friend, Bill. He answered the phone saying, “Hello, sweetheart! Are you looking for your dad? He is just walking out my door. Hang on. I will get him.”

Daddy had been visiting Bill.

I hurriedly explained to Bill I didn’t need Daddy. I told him what happened. I needed him to go be with Momma and Daddy. They were about to hear some of the worst news a parent can hear.

Bill too was devastated. He told me he would get his shoes on and head over there. Daddy was headed to the FedEx office to mail us a package, but would be home soon.

While I waited for Bill to call me, I told the Delta assistant I had to get to Memphis ASAP. He took my driver’s license and card. He made everything happen without asking me a question. He and another lady came around the corner and hugged me. They too had no idea what was happening. They just knew I needed support and grace.

I am sure I was making no sense through this process to the people around me. The circumstances I am facing today aren’t making sense in my head either.

Let’s just call us even.

John, I took my boarding passes, and turned to you. There you were. Still standing there holding my bags.

You are a good man, John.

You are a gracious and loving soul, even to this scattered stranger, who was facing one of the worst tragedies of her life.

Today, as I was picking out a casket for my brother, I thought of you, John. I thought of the love that I was shown yesterday when people didn’t understand me. I thought of the support that complete strangers extended to me. And the grace. Oh, the grace.

We all need grace, John.

I have spent the last 24 hours trying to figure out, “Why?” Trying to muddle through so many emotions. They all seem to be layering on top of one another. I want so bad to scream that someone else did it.

But no one else did it, John. He did it to himself.

Tomorrow, I will go see my sister in prison. I will hold her hand and cry with her. I will watch my parents hurt all over again.

Tomorrow, I will carry grace.

Tomorrow, I will carry with me the kind of love you showed to me, John. It may be the kind that just sits there beside, not saying a word, but the kind that is just there.

So, just know, John, as I walk through this valley of grief, and as I, once again, try to find a new normal, I appreciate you. I thank you for being you, for not just carrying my bags, but for helping to carry my heart through such a painful time.

You made a difference in my life yesterday.

For that, I am thankful.

This post originally appeared on i am jenn.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

Woman lighting a candle next to a rose

What We Need to Understand About Those Who Die by Suicide


She was very young when it finally claimed her life. It had gone undiagnosed and untreated for many years. Self-medication made it better some days. Some days, it made it worse. Finally, her family took her to a doctor for help, but it was too late. She was dead within the year.

It is very much the same for all of us, regardless of the illness. You play out the same scenarios. You walk the tightrope of hope, trying to maintain balance in the midst of the inescapable truth: You are powerless. Your insignificance in the mean face of death is overwhelming.

You hold their hand and fight your tears. You stay up late, sitting in the kitchen when you should be in bed. You jump at the phone. You mull over the details with friends. You question the doctor. Are they doing everything they can? Are they doing it right? Could someone else be doing more for them? You count your blessings. You count each day. Then, you count each minute. Before you know it, you’re holding your breath for each second.

When the seconds stop, the funeral is unremarkable. The pain so evenly distributed over every inch of your body that you can hardly feel a thing. The food there tastes like sand. If you have the energy to tune in to what anyone is saying, then it is unfathomably inconsequential. You can’t believe you spoke that way, some unimaginable amount of time ago. You are sure you will never speak that way again.

The sort of condolences bestowed on us, the grieving loved ones, are many and they are truly empathetic. Even after all this time, they are warm and heartfelt. It is this warmth that drives the lump into my throat, the inevitability that a perfectly well-meaning person will inquire about how it happened. The lump will bob and choke, while I explain to them that she killed herself.

I watch as the shift takes place: They furrow their brow and click their tongue, the same reaction from everyone. What had just a moment before been perceived as the tragedy of an innocent death becomes the report of an insidious crime. Suddenly the blame shifts, as if every death is a crime scene and the only one of us unaccountable is God.

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In order to help those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, we need to begin acknowledge that falling victim to a mental illness is as irreproachable as falling victim to any physical illness. Imagine marching into battle knowing in the event of your death, instead of being remembered for your bravery, you would be condemned in your failure to prevail. We need to understand these victims are not committing acts of violence against themselves on a whim. We need to recognize they go to battle every day, and each day that they are still standing is a victory.

We need to accept their realities are their own, and not shove our own realities down their throats. Those of us who choose to enrich our lives with the power of positive thinking, we need to understand it is chemically impossible for others to do the same. Would you ask a friend battling another illness to try harder? Would you suggest maybe they go get a hobby, get out more and enjoy the sunshine? Would you suggest these things might cure them? Would you ever make them feel they were somehow responsible for the ultimate outcome of their illness?

Suicidal thoughts are as real and as harmful as the cancerous cells that infiltrate our bodies and claim our lives. As is the case with cancer, there is a chance the victims of mental illness will respond well to treatment and learn to live again. On the other hand, like cancer, it can fight them until they lose all fighting strength. Whatever the illness, the bottom line is this: it may take our loved ones from us. They will often go violently. They will leave us with what feels like intent.

Don’t do your loved ones the injustice of believing this lie. Their illness has already robbed them of a life, but don’t let it taint their memory in death. We don’t want to apologize for them anymore. Some of us won’t because we feel they have nothing to apologize for. Some of us can’t because we can’t forgive them ourselves.

Please, stop asking us to apologize for them. Don’t ask us to remember them for their ultimate defeat. Allow us to remember them for each day we spent with them, each memory a lasting victory.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

 
school black board

When I Told the School I Taught at the Real Reason I Was Hospitalized


I entered the hospital with only one thought in my mind: I wanted to kill myself. My thoughts weren’t focused on the high school students I taught English. Even though they were normally the focus of my thoughts. Because when you’re at that point, the things that are important to you become smaller and smaller until they’re tiny blips on the radar — if they’re even on the radar at all.

During my stay, I became confident about returning to work. I had received letters and notes of encouragement from my principals as well as my students, even though they had no idea why I was actually in the hospital. My first semester so far had gone smoothly. My administrators liked me and I was coaching cheerleading. I couldn’t wait to be back at school with my students. The vice principal had even wrote in her note to me to take as long as I needed to get well.

After my release from the hospital I wanted to tell them the truth. I wanted to know what was “wrong” with me and where I had been. I didn’t have to — but I wanted to. This become a major regret. Things changed after that. And they continued to get worse.

The morning of my return back to school after spending a month in an outpatient program, I had a panic attack. Based on the treatment I received after my fateful email — standoffish phone calls if they were returned, a substitute who told my students why I was absent (meaning that an administrator had to have informed him), being stripped of my title as cheerleading coach and the fear that my job wasn’t as secure as I once believed — I was terrified. I was allowed back in my classroom for one day. And then the substitute would be back to take my place for the rest of the semester. I was to spend the remainder of the semester in the library. I wasn’t allowed in my classroom or the use of my laptop or tablet because he needed it to “teach.” My second day in the library he cleared out all my personal belongings from my desk and had a student bring them to me. He told people that he would be taking my place. He told my students I was no longer their teacher.

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One day I was sent home twice for dress-code violations while other coworkers walked the halls in jeans and t-shirts. I was devastated. And this sort of treatment continued. I became suicidal again, spending my days crying and sleeping as soon as I returned home after school. My saving grace was that I was protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This didn’t stop them from watching me under a microscope — looking for any mistake so that they could add it to their list of reasons I was incapable of being a teacher.

There were days I wanted to give up. Give up completely. Then I’d see my students, and I was reminded of why I needed to keep going. Why I needed to stay strong against the hostile treatment from my administration. I needed to stay strong for them. There was no way I could abandon them just because there were people who wanted nothing more than for me to quit. To be run out. They wanted to be proven right — that because of my illness I wasn’t fit to be a teacher. I became obsessed with work. Coming in at 6:30 a.m. every morning and not leaving until 6:30 or later every night. Never missing a day. Turning in detailed lesson plans. Making sure every item was crossed off. I received positive scores from my evaluations and things began to look up. Relations became friendlier between administration and myself. I became confident my contract would be renewed and I would return to the high school and the students I had formed strong bonds with.

The Friday before Spring Break proved my confidence was ill-fated. I was informed I would not be returning next year. They provided a list of reasons as to why they didn’t think I should be — most were untrue. But how could I prove that? It would be my word against theirs. Theirs being people who should have been supporting me and helping me through my first year of teaching. People who, in accordance with ADA, should have been working with me to complete a plan to accommodate me at work. People in a position of leadership who did not use their position to create a positive environment. People who should have the students’ best interests in mind. People who abused the power they were given for their own advances. People who should have encouraged teachers to work together instead of creating divides between them.

I was devastated. I returned to my room where a few students were hanging out with tears in my eyes. They hugged me as I cried. And then I became angry. I was angry at the administration for their ignorance and foul treatment. I was angry they had won. I was angry I had lost a battle I was fighting for everyone struggling like me in jobs that they loved.

I began applying for other teaching jobs in neighboring districts after being told no school in my district would hire me after they saw my personnel file. I made contact with principals who told me they would love for me to work at their school. My administrator told me she would write me a letter of recommendation. I requested one from her. She told me that she would have it to me by the end of the day. I received no such letter. Emails regarding it were met with silence. And then I was informed she refused to write one. Ruining my chances of being hired at another school.

One afternoon before the semester was over, I sat in my classroom with a few of my students. We were discussing what I would do next year and one of them brought up that I should be a guidance counselor. All of a sudden things clicked in my brain. They say that everything happens for a reason. Cliché but it actually rang truer to me in that moment than it ever has.

I began putting together an application for graduate school. They wanted a letter of intent. So I wrote them one. I spoke about my illness. My struggles with it. And how it would add to my success as a guidance counselor. A few weeks later I received a letter telling me I was accepted.

I was accepted into the program even though they knew about my illness. They still believed I would one day make an effective guidance counselor, regardless of my illness. And I regain faith that there were people in authority whose intentions were focused on the right things. That there were people out there who understood, and understood that just because I’m sick doesn’t mean I can’t be a successful professional.

This fall I will begin graduate school full-time, working towards my goal of being a high school guidance counselor. And I would like to thank the administration that tried to tear me down. You tried to make me feel as though I was less. You tried to keep me down. But you didn’t. Instead, you gave me the strength to get up. To know I am capable. I am capable even though I might struggle with an invisible illness — you are wrong about me.

I no longer regret telling the administration about my illness. And I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t have to be ashamed of who I am. The more shame I carry, the less of a chance we have of erasing this stigma.

We’re more than they think we are. We are together in this. And we must fight together in this. We can’t let other people’s ignorance or lack of understanding keep us from succeeding. We are stronger than they realize because while we might have trouble getting out of bed many days — we eventually do.

Follow this journey on Twenties in Ruin.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

sketch of a woman

6 Things I Wish Others Understood About Passive Suicidal Thoughts


Sometimes there are people in your life who aren’t quite part of it, but they skirt the periphery enough for their life, or death, to have an impact on yours. This happened to me this morning when I learned someone peripheral to my universe had taken her own life. I am heartbroken for the people whose lives she had a greater impact on — her parents, her family, her friends and her clients. I’m not going to go into the factors that contributed to this sad event. There were many. What I am going to talk about is the stigma that still surrounds suicide.

There is no doubt we’ve come a long way when it comes to destigmatizing suicide and associated mental health issues, but we still have such a long way to go. It’s now easier to talk about suicide after it happens and to urge people to seek help if they are struggling with similar issues. There is always a call to action at the end of every article dealing with suicide or mental health that provides information regarding support services. We have RUOK Day (let’s not get into the discussion about that) and we encourage people to be more open about their struggles.

What’s not happening nearly enough is people talking about suicidal thoughts before they take hold and it becomes too late. It’s still something people don’t want to hear about. To some extent, this is understandable. It’s scary. It feels like a huge burden and responsibility to hear another human talk about ending their life. It feels like something we should stop and something we need to save people from. If we can’t, we’ve failed.

The guilt can be overwhelming. I’ve been on the other end of a phone trying to talk someone out of ending their life who is at the end of a rope. I know the feelings of desperation and powerlessness it causes. I know how uncomfortable a subject it is.

Here’s the thing, I think about taking my own life on a semi-regular basis. It’s something I have discussed with very few people. It’s something I’ve struggled to even talk to professionals about. Sometimes, I deal with those thoughts on a daily basis. Sometimes, it’s months between “episodes.” As a person who has experienced suicidal thoughts, there’s a few things I need you to know:

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1. An alarming number of people experience what are known as passive suicidal thoughts.

For most of these people, the thoughts will likely never manifest into action. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t seek help. There’s obviously underlying issues that make them feel this way and those need to be addressed. If for no other reason, at least the person can have a more enjoyable life and them seeking help may be the thing that stops the idea from taking hold. If you have passive suicidal thoughts, then you are not alone.

2. I don’t talk about my suicidal thoughts for a number of reasons.

I don’t want to make other people feel responsible for my life. I don’t want to be accused of being an attention seeker. I don’t want other people to feel uncomfortable. Talking about suicidal thoughts, even with a professional, makes me feel like a failure. It makes me feel as if somehow I’m being ungrateful for all the good things I have in my life (of which there are many).

That’s what we need to understand. It’s not a simple equation. It’s not as easy as good things > bad things = lack of suicidal thoughts. There’s no magical amount of happy events that prevent suicide, just like there’s no specific amount of trauma that pushes someone to take their own life. It’s unlikely, as someone without professional training, that there’s any amount of words you can say to alter the course of someone who is committed to taking their own life. That’s why we need to be discussing it earlier before the resignation sets in.

3. The moments when my suicidal thoughts are at their loudest are when I am tired of struggling against the quicksand of life.

When everything from getting out of bed, to making the simplest of decisions, to answering a phone call seems like an insurmountable task. When the better option seems to be to stop struggling and allow myself to sink. It seems like the more peaceful option, the one that will use the least amount of energy. It’s never a major event that sets me off, it’s always a series of smaller things. Things that for someone who doesn’t suffer chronic depression may be manageable, but for me, they seem impossible.

4. I feel guilty experiencing these thoughts.

This is especially true when I have a wonderful husband, amazing kids, very supportive friends and family, a house to live in, a job that pays reasonably well and leaves me inspired every day, food to eat, water to drink and all the modern conveniences of living in a first world country. There’s a part of me that feels like I have no excuse to feel this way. That compared to other people who have overcome so much more, my depression and suicidal thoughts make me nothing but a pathetic, privileged white girl with no reason to complain, feel depressed or want to die.

Who does have the right to want to take their own life? People living in poverty? People who endure fresh trauma every day? At what point does it become OK to feel like death is the easier solution? At what point do others stop judging me as harshly as I judge myself? At what point does my sharing of my suicidal thoughts change from attention-seeking to understandable?

5. The thoughts on my mind are not what you think.

By talking about this, I know some people will see this as attention-seeking. They will see it as some sort of “poor me” exercise. They will think I want people to reassure me, pat my hand and tell me they’d be sad if something happened to me.

Those things could not be further from my mind when I am in the space of thinking about ending my own life. I’m not thinking about how many people will miss me or how large the attendance at my funeral will be. I’m not looking for reassurance that I am worthy, loved and everything is going to be OK. I’m purely and simply thinking about how I won’t have to be tired any more. I won’t have to struggle any more. It is most definitely not what I am thinking about as I write this post.

I am thinking about the things that stop me from taking my thoughts one step further, like my kids, my husband and the pain it would cause them. I’m thinking about my mum and the guilt she would feel thinking she had somehow failed me. I think about how me taking the final step might be the thing that pushes someone else over the edge. I think about how as long as I can keep talking about my suicidal thoughts when they happen I can keep them passive. I can stop them from taking control. Talking about them out loud means I am acknowledging how I feel. It means I can usually see how unreasonable the voice in my head is.

6. I’m thankful for those who listen.

I can not thank those special few who listen to my dark thoughts enough. By being brave enough to listen to even the deepest, darkest thoughts that come out of my brain, you save me more times than you will ever know. I know if I didn’t speak those thoughts out loud, they would just bounce around in my head and heart, getting stronger and stronger.

So I urge you all, be brave enough to look into the darkness. It’s not contagious. It can’t hurt you if you don’t let it. that drowns out everything else.

Don’t be afraid to say you have suicidal thoughts. You are not alone. You are not inherently bad. You are not a pathetic, privileged white girl who has no right to feel depressed. You are a fragile, beautiful human being with your own capacity for dealing with the darkness we face every day. Don’t judge yourself against other people.

If you’ve got no one in your life you feel you can speak to about your suicidal thoughts, then please seek assistance from one of the many highly qualified services available to Australians. The Beyond Blue website is a great place to start looking for resources to help.

This post originally appeared on The Medium.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

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