When I was in high school, a student committed suicide and I remember how sad everyone felt. It was like the person we all knew and loved didn't really compare to the person that we looked upon in his casket. I guess in some way, you never really know what a person is going through and dealing with- even on the inside. And just because someone chooses to smile on the outside, I always feel like that smile is a choice, because in reality, who knows what lies behind it.
My personal interaction with someone that was thinking about taking their own life occurred roughly two years ago. What scared me the most about the suicidal thoughts she was having, was understanding that these were thoughts that played on repeat daily. "I've just been dealing with trying not to commit suicide, honestly," I remember her saying.I knew that she needed someone to talk to, but who? I knew that perhaps there was a way for me to talk to her, help her process, and help her understand and feel that her life is worth living. I remember people always saying to contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you need to talk to someone or even if you know of someone that is thinking about taking their life. So I did.
"I honestly feel like those hotlines are so cliche and whoever is talking really doesn't get it. They all say the same things, though I've never actually talked to one, but I don't like those things," I remember her telling me.
I knew that if I couldn't call them for her, then I certainly needed to call them for me. My goal wasn't to call them because I myself was dealing with suicidal thoughts but because I needed to get some advice. I needed help and the last thing I wanted to feel like if she did, in fact, take her life, then it would be on me because I didn't try hard enough or go the extra mile.
The moments leading up to that harrowing phone call, I began to immediately appreciate the person on the other end. I honestly do not know how they are able to balance work from life. How they are able to not get emotional or even feel for the caller wanting to give up and throw in the towel while still do their job and provide great customer service. I began telling the woman I spoke to about how I have a friend that has suicidal thoughts. A friend that has had these thoughts since she was in the 6th grade and perhaps they only keep intensifying as time goes on.
While I can't recall everything the woman said, one thing that has stuck with me that she did say was the importance of not being judgmental and listening to the person going through. Active listening. Sometimes, it's easy to get lost in trying to fix something right away but underneath it all lies real emotions for someone that still needs time to process. It's scary to think about the number of deaths this world has seen via suicide. Before, it seemed like adults did, but it's trickled (and is trickling) down to kids too.
If you are reading this, just know how loved you are. Check in on people. Don't just say you're checking in to check in, but actually do it. Meet people where they are not where you want them to be. You don't have to fix everything. But just know that there are people, there are advocates, and there are resources available to you at any time. While I am thankful that my friend has not taken her life, dealing with was just as hard as an outsider looking in trying to help someone so close to the ledge.
We're all a work in progress trying to come up for air and perhaps, that's an okay place to be.