Hannah Moch

@hannah-moch | contributor
Hannah Moch is a queerspawn born, raised and existing in New York City. She is passionate about mental health and Crohn's Disease.
Hannah Moch

NYPD Shouldn't Share Videos of Suicide Active Rescues

Last week, the official Twitter account for the New York City Police Department (NYPD) shared a video on Twitter of officers saving a young person from suicide. The dramatic video was meant to celebrate the work of the officers and highlight the stress of their jobs. While I believe that is something worth celebrating, the NYPD also has a duty to protect. With this video they could’ve done harm they did not intend. As a suicide loss survivor, the video is painful to watch. I lost my friend Malaya when I was 13, almost 14 years ago, and it’s still hard to see depictions of suicide. Even a staged suicide in the TV show “Sherlock” had me rattled, and when I watched “The Office” for the first time, my fiancé advised that I skip the episode where a suicide is staged. But those were things I could avoid if I chose to. The NYPD’s tweet was unavoidable for anyone who follows local NYC issues on Twitter or television. A quick scroll through the 158 retweets on the original video shows that many precincts throughout the city shared it, and that doesn’t account for the 440 likes. The video has been viewed more than 18,800 times. That’s not to say I want to be protected from all mention of suicide. In 2007, I got involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk and I have never looked back. I work on, talk and think about the cause every day. What I’m asking for is safe and responsible discussions of suicide. Research spanning decades tells us reporting on suicide impacts suicide rates. A study by Dr. Mark Sinyor found, in part, that “Negative media coverage related to suicide can increase suicide rates.” Reckless depictions of the methods of suicide can also be dangerous for those who are struggling with their mental health, whether they are aware of it or not. Discussions of method can be triggering and can lead to copy cats. ReportingOnSuicide.org , a resource developed by suicide prevention experts in collaboration with journalists, recommends avoiding describing or depicting the method of suicide. Given the nature of the video the method is explicit. The work the NYPD does is dramatic enough without the clickbait nature of a dramatic video. The video also implies that police are the appropriate reaction to a mental health crisis, when we should be striving to reach people further upstream. Before a person’s mental health deteriorates to the point of crisis, there should be a culture that encourages help seeking and receiving support. Emergency services should include mental health professionals and peers. The video, by virtue of its dramatic framing, also furthers the myth that suicide attempts are just dramatic attention-seeking behaviors. In actuality, self-harm and expressions of suicidality should be taken seriously. At the end of video, the onscreen text reads, “They were able to safely take him into custody.” A person in a mental health crisis should not be “taken into custody” — they should be given support. The language in the video implies that a person in suicidal crisis is a criminal, and that’s what the police were responding to. It’s the same thinking that created the phrase “committed suicide,” at a time when suicide attempts were punishable by law. We know better these days. People in crisis are not in need of incarceration, they are in need of help. Lastly, I wish the NYPD had not shared the video for the sake of the young person they saved. Hopefully this person will go on to live, but this video might haunt them forever. Imagine the whole world seeing your most painful moment. It should be up to each of us to disclose our mental health experiences, but in the video we see the apartment in enough detail that the person could be identified either now or in the future. I want to celebrate officers who save lives. I hope in the future NYPD chooses to share photos of the officers to celebrate their hard, life-saving work, rather than posting body cam footage. Last year, for the first time, the NYPD hosted The Hope Awards with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention where they recognized officers who had saved people in crisis. We need to find supportive and humane ways to help people when they’re suicidal — and I hope the NYPD considers how what they post on social media can affect the people they’re trying to help.

Hannah Moch

5 Songs That Make Me Feel Seen as a Suicide Loss Survivor

When I was 13, I lost my friend Malaya to suicide. The year after her death, I got involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and I’ve been involved in the suicide prevention world to varying degrees ever since. Even with all the community I’ve found over the last 13 years, I still get a certain feeling when suicide loss comes up in pop culture: the feeling of being seen. Representation matters, especially when it comes to our life experiences. There are a lot of songs about grief and those can speak to the experience of suicide loss, but these five songs are specifically about it. 1. “Wounded Healer” by Watsky Based on the lyrics, it seems this song is about the suicide death of Watsky’s father’s friend. As a young suicide loss survivor, the song does a beautiful job of wrestling with the awareness of mortality I felt after Malaya died. The first verse after mentioning the suicide loss has Watsky discussing his fear of his father getting older. Losing a friend brought a whole new awareness of mortality. (Content warning: method mentioned in the song.) 2. “Suicide Doors” by Mona Haydar “I can see her mama with my eyes closed… I remember those first few nights, we shared the bed and just cried.” This line resonated with me so strongly the first time I heard it (and still does); it nearly brought tears to my eyes. I so vividly remember being with my friends the first few days after Malaya died and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the image of her mom at the funeral. This song makes me feel seen as a friend loss survivor as well. Mona opens the song talking about things her friend used to say, signs she might’ve shown. She goes on to talk about wishing she could have done more. Though friends obviously have a part to play in suicide prevention because they sometimes hear or see the most, we often feel helpless because there’s vital information we don’t know (health insurance and family history information, for example). 3. “Send in the Sun” by Watsky “…who am I to say a choice you made was stupid, but there’s a bunch of us who love you… F-ing stuck here pointing fingers at ourselves for something you did.” I think this is the first song I ever heard that really made me feel seen as a loss survivor when it came out in 2013. The beautiful balance that Watsky expresses in this song between compassion and anger is something I’ve seen countless suicide loss survivors experience. You can hear Watsky struggle to keep himself from yelling as he levels accusations that his friends “went away forever to a new place.” I also know very few suicide loss survivors who didn’t point fingers at themselves and others at some moment in their journey. It’s a part of the process, the search for why. (Content warning: method mentioned in the song.)   4. “Not a Damn Thing Changed” by Lukas Graham “Some of my friends started leaving this life ’cause they couldn’t wait. They know how it feels without hope. I’m glad I got somewhere to go.” Lukas Graham has a habit of releasing songs that express a lot of emotional anguish, but this one specifically about losing a friend to suicide always hits the hardest. The lyrics come fast in this song, but “they know how it feels without hope” sticks. When the album first came out, I looked up the lyrics to understand exactly what he was saying about this loss. “Not a Damn Thing Changed” is such a beautiful and tragic theme for suicide loss because that’s how it feels sometimes –especially if you don’t know someone’s reasons. Yesterday, that person was alive and today, everything is the same, except they’re gone. When Malaya died, we were still a few months away from graduating middle school, living life in NYC like regular 13 year olds, but we were doing it without her. (Content warning: method mentioned in the song.) 5. “Twenty-Three” by MC Lars This is the one song on the list that was made explicitly for suicide prevention awareness. The most powerful part of this song for me is when MC Lars plays a clip of his friend’s voice. It’s so simple but I remember the relief of finding a clip of Malaya on my phone. Having recordings like that keep their voice alive long after they’re gone. I’m sure it’s hard for MC Lars to listen to the clip, but it is an incredibly powerful way to remind people that those lost to suicide are ordinary humans, who had fun and good times with friends. If you’re a suicide loss survivor, is there a song that resonates with you? Let us know in the comments below.

Hannah Moch

#SuicideOnTheBrain: Response to 'Good Morning America' Incident

During National Suicide Prevention Week, a large group of American Foundation forSuicide Prevention employees and volunteers (including myself) had a rather disappointing experience as we stood outside the studios of “Good Morning America.” “It’s the top of our morning show,” we were told as representatives of the show angled us out of the camera’s view. “We don’t want suicide on the brain.” If you haven’t read the incredible piece by our VP of Research yet, you should. This experience has given us the opportunity to create an important dialogue around the hashtag #SuicideOnTheBrain. In 2006, I was a 13 year-old eighth grader when my classmate and friend Malaya died by suicide. Only three months after Malaya was gone, my fellow students and I graduated from middle school. As we approached the big day, our teachers rejected every mention of Malaya in the yearbook and the graduation proceedings. Dismayed and grieving, we took the microphone during the ceremony and demanded a moment of silence. At that point, it seemed like it was us vs. our teachers at a time when we should’ve come together. For years, I was angry with our teachers for denying us the memorial Malaya deserved. But here’s the thing: it wasn’t their fault. They were terrified and experiencing their own grief because they hadn’t been prepared to deal with losing a student to suicide. More than a decade later, it isn’t GMA ‘s fault either. I remember before the topic of suicide ever entered my immediate reality, I said many insensitive things about mental health that I would never say now. I’ve heard the same from many of my colleagues and friends in the suicide prevention world. It takes personal experience — or hearing about it from others — to teach us how to talk about this serious subject. The general public is not educated about suicide. I remember having health education in elementary school… but no one mentioned suicide until it was too late. We don’t always talk about mental health in the same way we do about physical health. Often, we don’t talk about mental health and suicide until something terrible has happened. We need to tell more stories of hope and healing. People who haven’t been touched by suicide need to hear about our experiences and learn the warning signs and the resources available so they can save lives. They also need to learn the facts about suicide, so there can be a greater understanding of how widespread this issue is. We need these stories because acting as though no one has #SuicideOnTheBrain makes those who are thinking about suicide and those who are grieving a suicide loss feel like they must be alone in this world. Suicide can be isolating. The truth is millions have #SuicideOnTheBrain, and if we come together we can change hearts and minds. Standing in the rope line outside of “Good Morning America,” it was disappointing to be reminded that people still don’t understand how big an issue mental health is. But I have been excited to see how fired up people have gotten about it. Just a few years ago, we would’ve been resigned to the understanding that suicide is swept under the rug. Now that public opinion is undeniably changing, we are surprised and angered by this kind of silencing. Rather than pointing fingers, it feels good to use this as a teaching moment. So let’s turn our anger into action and education. Use the hashtag #SuicideOnTheBrain to share your own story of hope, facts about suicide, and resources that are available to those who have been affected. Together, we can #StopSuicide! 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.

Hannah Moch

To the Person Who Is Falling in Love With Someone With Chronic Illness

First, it’s important to remember that the person you’re falling in love with is so much more than their illness. It might be a huge part of their identity and it might be a tiny part of their identity, but it is only part. Secondly, it is important to remember that the farther you fall in love, the more their illness may become part of your identity. I always think about that moment from “Scrubs” when Carla, whose husband, Turk, has diabetes, describes herself as a WOD: Wife Of Diabetic. So I guess I can be a GFOC: Girlfriend of Chronnie. Our identities are inherently wrapped up in those of the people we love. Loving someone with a chronic illness can mean that they’ll be too sick to go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, but two days later they may feel well enough to go see “Deadpool” with their dad. Here’s the thing though: I think it’s actually way more fun to eat at home while watching your favorite TV show than it is to sit in a restaurant overcrowded with grossly affectionate couples. Loving someone with a chronic illness can give you a different perspective on the “normal” things couples (and people in general) do. Little things like going out to eat are not that important, I feel. Remember (and this is a good reminder for all of us), your relationship is about the person you love, not what you do with them. When I met my boyfriend, he’d already been living with Crohn’s disease for many years. It was normal for him, but I’d never had a loved one with a chronic illness before. We were long-distance for the first year, and he told me the details of his illness via Skype. He was used to doctors and procedures and medications and surgery. I was not. I’m still not. But it’s OK, because him being healthy is what I’m after and if all these things are what it takes, then so be it. My greatest warning for those of you who are falling in love is this: Sometimes you will see the person you love in a great deal of pain, and there may not be a single thing you can do about it. I believe it’s the hardest part. Because you are sad and scared or just human, you will ask (repeatedly), “How can I help you?” and the answer can be a frustrating “You can’t” almost every time. My biggest advice: Celebrate and embrace the times when you can. Offer your arm to help them stand, wipe their forehead with a warm or cool washcloth, rub their head or their feet. If you don’t know in your heart that they would do all the same and more for you in an instant, you may not be with the right person. Signed, A very in love GFOC Hannah and her boyfriend. The Mighty is asking the following: What do you want your past, current or future partner to know about being with someone with your disability, disease or mental illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.