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5 Things I Learned After Sharing the Story of My Friend’s Suicide

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I lost my friend of 21 years to suicide on January 18th, 2016. In September of the same year, I decided to write an article on it for Suicide Prevention Week. I felt like I was educating others on what I wanted them to know about suicide, specifically, that my friend died by suicide and didn’t “commit” it.

Many took my article as I intended. They related with regret and guilt, and many were enlightened to look at suicide as a result of a mental illness. For reasons I’m still quite unclear, my article struck a note with readers. Many family members praised me and my vulnerability. What I was most affected by were the comments from those who deal with suicidal tendencies on a daily basis.

Many comments were harsh and difficult to read. Many others were kind but enlightening. Either way, the article opened up a dialogue, and this is what is important. This is what transcends any judgment. This is what transcends any misunderstanding. This is what transcends stigma and what helps people.

I wrote that article hoping to change the dialogue around suicide. Paradoxically, I realized I had only started the dialogue. How egocentric of me to think I, a person who has never experienced suicide or suicidal tendencies, could have changed the dialogue simply because I deeply loved a human who has passed because of it.

No. What changes the dialogue is hearing from those who are actually struggling, These are the top five lessons I’ve learned from opening up a dialogue, quoted directly from reader comments.

1. Many people who are struggling do not reach out.

“She needed someone to reach out to her. Sometimes people don’t know how to ask for help.”

2. Name the disease, not the method.

“I appreciate that you don’t say she “committed” suicide, but I still feel like it’s just not right. The cause of death was depression.”

3. People can relate.

“Thank you for sharing your story. Your words brought a rare sense of comfort over me.”

4. People shouldn’t wait until someone asks for help.

“It’s often too late, but nobody just knows that. Most people have no idea what to do.”

5. Continue to share your story.

“If suicide wasn’t such a taboo or there wasn’t such a stigma attached to it, then I would write volumes.”

That last one says so much. If there wasn’t so much stigma, then she would write volumes. Sarah and I loved Maya Angelou. She once said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

I don’t like that there is stigma. I don’t like the fact it’s taboo. Maybe if it wasn’t, my friend would have received the help she needed and be alive today. I don’t know what else to do but write. So I’ll write because I sure as heck can’t change my attitude about something that literally means death.

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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Image via contributor.

Originally published: October 27, 2016
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