September 8-12 is Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. In my professional life, organizations are addressing suicide, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress and other mental health issues. With 1 in 4 Americans dealing with mental health issues we need to mount a war against stigma. Mental Health is just as important as Physical Health. You can die from mental illnesses, just as you can from physical disease. When I see statistics like "1 in 4," I look around at the closest four people around me at that time, or on social media and realize that 1 of any 4 individuals I deal with on a daily basis is struggling mentally. This is a sobering thought. If I put myself in their shoes, I begin to understand that each day is struggle...a fight with dealing with what their brain tries to tell them, and what their heart believes. When the chemicals in the brain get mixed up, it is very difficult to tell right from wrong, feel joy, hear salvation, or be in the moment. Mental illness has a very physical pain from which it is difficult to escape.
Hence suicide. Sometimes suicide for people seems like the only answer.
With the recent suicide of Robin Williams, a slew of pundits waded in to the discussion on depression, suicide and mental health. Some actually knew what they were talking about, others spoke from personal experience, and others spoke from ignorance. I am not a behavior health professional, but I am someone who has had suicide touch my life on multiple occaisions. And I am a caring, Christian person who would like to reach out to any of the 1 in 4 and say, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There is HELP and SUPPORT and HANDS for any of the 1 in 4. DO NOT GIVE UP THAT SOMEONE WANTS AND NEEDS YOU IN YOUR LIFE. When there is 1 in 4, there are 3 other people to help.
My children do not have a grandfather because of suicide. My husband and his sister miss their father because of suicide. I watched my own father flirt with suicide in the midst of a rapidly, unraveling, unstable bout with depression. I remember watching my father drive off one day and wonder if he would come home. My family lost a dear Catholic priest/friend succumb to depression and mental illness and kill himself. I have had nursing colleagues kill themselves. Soldiers are killing themselves from the mental anguish of war. Teenagers are killing themselves because they do not see any other options.
My father was a priest. This was not supposed to happen to spiritual people, but it does. It's not supposed to happen to professional people, but it does. It is not supposed to happen to "strong, heroic" people, but it does. Mental Illness happens to 1 in 4. Mental illness touches all religions, all denominations, all races, all sexes, ALL PEOPLE. If 1 in 4 suffer from mental illness, are you one of them?
A lot of people refer to suicide as the rock bottom of their depression and mental illness. When I reached rock bottom with my own health, it remember it was really difficult to see the purpose of my life. Thank God for God. For me, God was the life-line for getting my life back on track and seeing purpose, even when my body wasn't doing what I wanted it to do.
As Christian's, we can show God's love to people with mental illness by being their life-line when their minds are not functioning the way they are supposed to function. We can be the other 3 that reach out a hand to the 1 in 4. Mental illness happens. It happens to a lot of people.
If you are of the 1 in 4, read this and know that you are NEEDED, WANTED, and have PURPOSE in this world. I believe fiercely that human life is sacred and special. You are a LIFE worth being in this world and God put you here for a reason. Don't throw that away with suicide. You may be the missing grandparent, parent, brother, sister, or friend in someone's life if you commit suicide. It's a hole that never goes away.
The Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK. Pick up the line. Call them, call a friend, call your pastor, call a family member, but don't leave us. We need you here.