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Taking 6 Minutes to Honor My Partner Who Died by Suicide

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This past week, I finally finished a video to complement the message of my memoir about Steve Tarpinian, “Slipped Away.” Steve died by suicide in 2015 and was my soul mate for over 33 years. The video was a true labor of love, taking me many, many hours of choosing photos, designing a layout and writing the script. Then, it took more than six hours for a videographer to execute my vision.

My biggest concern was that at six minutes, the video was too long. After all, the average adult attention span is eight seconds (I am guilty of this short attention span myself). This was after cutting out approximately 60 seconds of photos/voiceover. I decided I could not cut any more if I wanted to do justice to Steve’s life and legacy and also allow his story to hopefully help others. The challenge I had was how do I get such important messages across in less than two or three minutes: that things are not always as they seem for people who have depression and mental illness. Many of those afflicted are very good at hiding their pain, as was the case with Steve.

I also wanted to show how much Steve was loved and the legacy he left behind. Steve’s story is not unique; for every suicide, there are so many unanswered questions, the pain of those who are left behind and the sudden loss of a precious life. The stigma associated with suicide and mental illness is alive and well. I decided I would not compromise my vision for this project by cutting the video down to two or three minutes duration.

After all, what is six minutes out of our day? How often do we spend more than that waiting in line at the post office, sitting in traffic or even looking at our social media accounts? My hope is that in the six minutes of my “Slipped Away” video, you can walk away with a new found perspective that mental illness and suicide can happen to anyone. Or, it may help you be more sympathetic to those who live with it, or perhaps it may make you realize that you have a loved one who may be struggling and you never thought that could be possible. Even if watching and listening to the messages of the video gives you pause to be grateful for those loved ones who are still with you in your life, that you give them a hug and tell them you love them, then keeping the video at six minutes is well worth it.

My expectations for the video’s impact are probably too high. I am thankful for those who watched the video, liked it and even commented on it. However, very few are sharing  it. Is this because they already spent six minutes watching it and forgot to share it, having to move on to their next focus? Or, could they not share it on social media because they do not feel comfortable acknowledging suicide and mental illness?

The path I have chosen, to inspire conversation about mental health issues, is daunting and exhausting at times. By chance, this morning on the news, there was a segment on J.K. Rowling. She was turned down several times by publishers before “Harry Potter” became one of the greatest phenomena in children’s literature, with sales of more than 400 million copies worldwide. At the end of the segment, the message, which I so desperately needed to hear, was to finish what I started. There is much to be learned in the process. Rejection does not imply failure.

I truly believe there is no such thing as overnight success. I have only been at this for
two years; who knows, it may be another 10 years of perseverance and being “gum in the hair” before I have any real success. I define my success as having the ability to  donate sizable dollar amounts from the proceeds of Slipped Away’s sales to a nonprofit veterans organization, Project 9 Line, that provides outlets for veterans who has post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. That, along with the telling of Steve’s story such that it can help thousands of others, and to inspire conversation about mental illness and suicide on a large scale, will constitute a huge triumph for me.

Until that  time comes, I will continue to tell Steve’s story, even if it takes me more than six minutes.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: April 5, 2017
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