My high school suffered two losses this week. These are the fifth and sixth deaths in the past two years to happen within the school community, five of which were suicides. I attempted suicide my senior year but (fortunately) was not successful. I still struggle with suicidal ideation regularly, 14 years later. A friend, unfortunately, was successful the year before my attempt. So though my subject line is a little glib (a reference to the 80s cult favorite Heathers) I take the topic very seriously.
Suicide is the desperate act of a desperate person. The pressures of adolescence are high, but I can’t help thinking that these deaths might have been so easily prevented. There are a lot of different reasons that people consider suicide and there is no one-size-fits-all “cure” for suicidality. However, for many, there are ways to deal with at least some of those reasons before the situation gets so bad that death seems like the only answer. We not only need to remove the stigma from mental illness and seeing a therapist (because only crazy people need therapy, right? and I’m not crazy, I can’t be crazy, crazy is bad and scary and wrong*), we need to reach out to people, early and often, and make sure they know there are options available, that help is available, and that getting help is important and a good thing to do. Needing help is not weakness. Everyone needs help at one time or another, and to varying degrees. Talk to your kids, talk to your friends, and don’t just talk but support what you’re saying with your behavior!
*in the event that someone unfamiliar with my writing style reads this, this is not how I feel about mental illness but how people I have encountered have responded to the idea of having mental illness and how I once felt about it. I have mental illness and am quite open about it, in the hope that it will help someone else.
WTW support image created by Woodson alumna Rachel Bondy