If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. I hope you know we need you here.
Humans don’t like to think about death. That word makes us uneasy. It’s the one major problem that literally all of us are faced with that we haven’t quite solved. Because no matter how much you try to put it off – you’re going to die.
Death isn’t the way things should be. You want to know how I can know that this is true? Think of the moments in your life that you wish you could pause, rewind, play on repeat forever and ever. The view from an island trail, running into the ocean, sitting on a front lawn with a ukulele, a good kiss, the perfect pancake. These are the moments that etched eternity right into your heart. You were made to crave forever.
Which is why the news lately has my heart feeling like it was chewed up, spit out, shoved it a blender and served over ice.
This summer the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and even Mac Miller hit me harder than expected. Celebrity makes it seem like people are untouchable, immortal. Their deaths should be evidence that depression and anxiety and addiction are real diseases that obey no rules of class, income, age, wealth, or status. No matter who it affects, whether you have billions of admirers or it’s just you making it in the world, suicide is painful. Hopelessness is a feeling both so foreign and familiar to almost every person here on earth.
It’s World Suicide Prevention Day and here are the stats: 800,000 people die from suicide globally. That’s 1 person every 40 seconds (see TWLOHA’s stats here). It’s wild to me that in the scientific sense, daily life as we know it has never been more productive, safe, and technologically advanced than years before. We are smarter, faster, stronger and I can order a dozen macarons on Uber Eats and have them delivered right to my door on a lazy Sunday night. What a time to be alive, truly.
And at the same time we’re more isolated than ever. We’re siloed in our own echo-chambers of Twitter feeds and when we see the world as we know it cracked, it leaves us confused and afraid. We keep trying to find true meaning for why we’re on this big, blue marble but instead we’re faced with a trashcan fire of terrible leadership, natural disasters, trauma, loss and no clear end to it all.
I’m not a certified therapist and I don’t have pages of research telling me how to fix the fracture that depression, death, and suicide leave on a life. But I do know that hope is hard fought for and I think that we can learn how to be better about holding the hard things about the right now with the promise of the not yet.
We can give a damn.
We can be the kinds of friends who embrace the hard conversations and aren’t just friends out of convenience. We can be the kinds of people who are willing to put down our black mirrors to see someone and go to them rather than obeying social structures that tell us to keep our distance. We can be the friends who are willing to open up our couches, our wallets, our own lives for the sake of someone else learning that they’re not all alone in this world.
We can be the kinds of friends who value our friends’ lives above our own. That might be called love. I’m going to call it giving a damn.
This isn’t to say that when someone commits suicide that we’ve failed. Far from it. Suicide is no one’s fault. I don’t have answers or a list of “should/shouldn’t do’s” and honestly, that wouldn’t be helpful. Depression is a sickness whose rules constantly change and are hard to define. What works for one person might be harmful for another. At the end of the day, people are still going to make choices and all we can do in the meantime is remind them until we run out of breath, “You’re loved you’re loved you’re loved you’re loved.”
It’s hard enough to say that you need people to remind you of this when you’re healthy. Imagine the mountain you have to climb to reach out and be honest about your pain if you’re struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. The best way to give a damn is to let your people know that you give a damn about them. So ask your people how they’re doing. And not just the happy hour version of this filler question. The How-Are-You-Really version. The kind of honest question that begs an honest answer.
I don’t know a lot of things. I know how to poach an egg, build Ikea furniture without wanting to drink myself to death, and use an Oxford comma. I also know that when Eleven from Stranger Things said, “Friends don’t lie”… I felt that. Friends don’t lie. And friends who give a damn use their words to create a safe space to welcome the truth. Even if it seems too big or too much or too messy or too heavy for just you to hold. Friends who give a damn will hold your arms up and remind you that the weight of the world isn’t just on you to handle alone.
So if you weren’t convinced already, I give a damn about you and I hope you stay.