Stop the silence…

When someone we care about dies, we enter the 7 stages of grief. There is disbelief & denial, then comes the bargaining, followed by guilt; then anger. Usually this is followed by a depression before we finally reach acceptance and maybe even hope for the future. When someone we care about dies, we go through these phases together, as a community, as a family. We talk about what happened and usually by the time we’ve all passed through the “guilt” phase, we use the anger and sadness to tackle what ever enemy took our loved one from us, in the hope that we can prevent it from happening to anyone else. Catching the criminal, fighting to find the cure, petitioning to fully ban driving under the influence… we can do something in their name, in their honour and their memory. Something to make the world the type of place that we should have made it for them, before we lost them. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it gives us something to focus on and helps to bring closure.

But what if the cause of death wasn’t a physical illness, a drunk driver or a cruel villain… what if the cause of death was suicide?

The effects are devastating. For the one who has passed it seemed like a way out of what ever was causing them to suffer; but most of the time that something is a something that will forever haunt those left behind. It’s a gaping black hole of pain. Forever asking themselves “why” and whether they should have known; whether they could have done anything.

For those left behind after suicide, it’s hard to find that final stage… acceptance and hope – for there is nowhere to point the anger – nothing to blame and sometimes they turn that blame on themselves. And to make matters worse, this is one form of death that we don’t face as a community, one that we don’t talk about. It’s a death that we face in misery and fear and loneliness. Why is this? Because as a society we have deemed suicide taboo. Even in the 21st century suicide is treated as shameful and something that isn’t to be discussed.

We teach our children how to safely cross a street, how to not ride with strangers and not to play with matches – but we don’t teach them how to protect themselves from their own feelings, if ever they turn dark. As a society we still haven’t figured this out and it is a tragedy.

I am writing this today, because there has been another such tragedy. There was a young man, whom I met briefly last year, who was very dear to a family member of mine. He had a charming smile and a firm handshake. The type of young man you would love to get to know better.

I am writing this today because I will never get that chance to know him better. No one ever will.

This wonderful young man, full of potential and life has now become a statistic. He has become one of the three and a half thousand Canadians who take their own lives every year and no one, but those who directly knew him and those who loved him, will know. The media doesn’t cover suicides. Most of the time there won’t even be an obituary in the paper.

It is still not proper to talk about it and I am sick of it. Why won’t anyone but his loved ones know about his life and his death? Why won’t his community get to know that another beautiful young soul fell victim to one of the most common killers in our modern society? I don’t know why, but I think it is time that we break the silence.

There are plenty of amazing organizations out there trying to spread awareness and offer help in methods of prevention and bereavement counselling – but it isn’t enough. As a society we can not sit idly by as an epidemic of suicide fuelled by depression, sadness, bullying and hatred kills our friends and loved ones.

Suicide has become the 10th most common cause of death in the developed world.

It is widely known that suicide doesn’t just happen out of no where. It’s not a freak accident- it’s a disease. A disease that feeds on fear, sadness, depression, loneliness and so much more and we need to start talking about it. We need to stop equating these emotions with weakness and scaring those suffering from them away from those who could help them. We need to start listening. We need to start talking. We need to break the silence.

It felt like the whole world held its breath and cried when we discovered that one of the funniest and warmest people to ever come out of Hollywood, the beloved late Robin Williams, took his own life. We were horrified and hurt and everyone wondered how this could have happened. I know that because I was one of them. In the aftermath of his passing, we talked about it – for a while. For just a moment the disease that took him, the epidemic that is spreading was talked about and examined but it didn’t last very long. And it was an exception; he was famous and widely loved. Normally the world tries to sweep suicides under the rug and to pretend like it’s not happening.

This time no one is going to report on this wonderful young Canadian man who is no longer among us. There will be no headlines, no breaking news coverage and no investigation. He just slipped away.

But I want everyone that I can reach to know that it happened. I want to speak about it and I don’t want him to be forgotten. I will not allow him to be just a statistic.

I want you to know that it’s still happening and most of all I want you to know that we can fight against it. We can raise awareness. We can educate ourselves and really listen when our loved ones and neighbours need us to.

Personally, I am going to be reaching out to my own local suicide prevention centre, just to ask if there is anything I can do. I don’t know if they accept donations, or if they need volunteers – but I am going to see what I can do.

If you, or you suspect that someone you know, may have been thinking about suicide please turn to your family and friends, or for confidential assistance, please reach out to any of the following organizations, who offer professional help and advice.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA)

Supportline (UK)

If you, or someone you know, has been bereaved by a suicide, I am truly and deeply sorry for your loss. If I could, I would hug you tight and tell you that it’s not your fault and I would ask you to please get it touch with any of the above mentioned organizations that offer professional help and advice and to not hide your feelings. Turn to your family and friends. Reach out to a support group if you need to.

Let’s stand together and let’s stop the silence.

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