Stop People From Dying Too Young.

It is becoming more and more apparent just how high the suicide rate is climbing. While sharing the suicide hotline number shows sympathy, we need more than just that. We need it now.

The stigma surrounding mental health is killing us.

Loneliness is killing us.

Silence is killing us.

People are going through the darkest times they’ve ever known and are not coming out on the other side. It’s not getting better for them. They are alone and sharing a phone number is not enough to make them feel otherwise.

We as a community can take that stigma away. We can broaden our community. We can open up lines of communication that have been shut down.

It is going to take action and lots of it. Thinking kind thoughts is a great way to get started from within. The next step is sharing those kind thoughts with as many in the community as we can. GET OFF YOUR PHONE AND START LOOKING AT THE PEOPLE CLOSEST TO YOU! Those kind hellos and sweet smiles to random strangers will make a difference. Saying thank you and smiling at the person checking you out, holding the door for someone that’s 10 seconds away, letting someone in during traffic, and asking your server how they are doing before giving your drink order are all ways to make you, yourself, feel more connected to the bigger community, that is the city that you live in. If you feel more connected and are spreading that love and support, imagine how many people you are going to spread that too. The ripple effect is real. Imagine what would happen if we created a huge tidal wave of love and support throughout our city! And to think, it all started with you smiling at the person checking you out at a register.

If you can find it in your heart to start spreading love to strangers, then you are one of the ones that can become a beacon of light for someone going through a dark time. Someone that you currently know. There is a person in your circle that needs to talk. Sharing a hotline number is a good thing, but, offering to be a listening ear is greater. You can let someone know that a person they know truly cares. The reason there is a stigma surrounding mental health is that NO ONE wants to talk about it. It is a subject that can quickly leave people feeling isolated. The only things we post on social media are our successes, and joyous moments. Understandable. Why wouldn’t you want to share happy memories with those you know and love? When you are living with depression, your thoughts are foggy, and you can’t rationalize that those good moments are not the only moments. You are just wondering if you are ever going to feel a different way. You are looking at those happy moments, not wanting to mess them up with your own darkness/sadness/hopelessness/depression. If those of us fortunate enough to be living in great mental health can make ourselves available to listen to those who are going through a hard time with their mental health, we may be able to help someone start the healing process.

It can be hard to be a good listener. We may want to start offering solutions for people. In these instances, most of us are not qualified to offer solutions, but it won’t matter. Just be the sounding board for a friend. Let them get some thoughts out of the fog that is in their mind and out into the world, where they can’t hide them anymore. Just knowing that someone knows, and didn’t run away, gives an immense feeling of relief. (I know this because I have battled two bouts with depression.) Often times the friend that needs help is not the friend that you would guess. This is not the friend that always has something to complain about. This may be the friend that seems a little withdrawn. You could be looking at a person that smiles every time you see them, but inside they don’t feel that smile.

I am asking this, of all of us, PLEASE SLOW DOWN YOUR DAY. When you stop to talk to someone that you see every day and ask them how they are doing, pause/stop walking/make eye contact and wait for a genuine response. If you are in need of someone to talk to, stop and give a genuine response when someone does this. Loneliness is killing us. One-on-one contact is being replaced by comments, DM’s, emails, and texts. It’s crazy to think, but 2 minutes out of your day could be what gives someone in a life threateningly dark place a glimmer of hope. When you think about it like that, it seems absurd that we are even here, with the suicide rate climbing like it is. Feeling unconnected, watching headlines on the news, and seeing all of the “great lives” people are leading through social media can be a deadly combination. If you are depressed and lose hope, it is hard to live. Hard enough that too many in our community are losing the battle. And it is a battle, friends. That’s why it’s going to take a community effort to fix it.

Let’s become the change that we need to see in our world. Let’s create a judgement free community, that all are welcome to be a part of in some way. Let’s become the connection to our community for those feeling lonely and on the outside. Let’s become the beacon of light and hope within our circles. Let’s be the listening ear to those who just need to talk. Then we can offer up that hotline number, after we have truly listened to a person share what they are going through. We can offer to be with them when they call.

Stop people from dying too young.

When your parent leaves you, for good.

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My siblings and I spreading Dad’s ashes at the Grand Canyon.

When I first sat down to start writing this blog entry, I realized it had been six months since my father committed suicide. This was a very surreal experience for me. I had already said goodbye to my father twice in my life. Once, as a teenager, and again, in my early 20’s.

I didn’t grow up in an ideal situation for a child. My parents were young, and both came from pretty messed up situations themselves. I know there are kids out there that have been physically abused much worse than what we saw in our household. Fortunately, none of us had hospital visits, or had to cover up huge bruises when we left the house. We were lucky to have a dad that would never touch his kids in an inappropriate manner. We didn’t get told we would never amount to anything, or weren’t worth anything, but, the with emotional neglect we suffered, we might as well have been told that.

It’s not easy coming up in a house where you reach out for love and get shut down and turned away nearly 90% of the time. Nothing has to be said to make you feel like you are not special. I have had a hard time, over the years, relating to people. I’m always considered to be a bit off, and I know that. Some think it endearing, others just can’t put their finger on it and keep a certain distance. I didn’t know what to do with myself the first time I fell in love! I was 20 years old, every time Coldplay’s “Yellow” came on, I started getting this swelling feeling in my chest and I began to cry. I just couldn’t fathom the fact that someone could make me feel this good, this special, and I didn’t have to do anything to make it happen! I didn’t have to ace a test, get straight A’s, learn a new crazy trick on my skates; nothing. All I had to do was spend time with this person. I still even to this day have to remind myself that I am special, and I do not have to do anything to get the love I deserve.

At one point in my life, I doubted if I had any good memories involving my dad. I knew I had one. When I was four, we were living with my dad’s parents while our house was being renovated. My dad took me down to the street on my little bike with no training wheels, which I had not ridden on my own yet, and started running behind me with his hand on the seat. I kept turning around periodically to make sure he was still holding on and telling him, “Don’t let go Dad!” He knew I actually didn’t need him holding on back there. He told me, “You’ve got it!” I assured him I needed him there and told him not to let go one more time, but this time when I turned around, I saw my dad standing in the middle of the street with a huge smile on his face. I was riding my bike all on my own. When my dad hung himself, a flood of other good memories came through. I had since remembered more than learning to ride a bike, his death made me realize it wasn’t all bad. He wasn’t all bad.

For me, the thing I am mourning most, is the hope that died along with him. Our relationship was not great by any means, but it was getting better. I felt like he was getting better. Better at relating, talking, showing affection. I actually had hope that one day my Dad was going to call me, just to see how I was doing. Not only that, but make at semi-regular habit of it. I had hopes that he was going to plan a trip out to visit me, instead of traveling to the city that I live in and not even calling me. That hope was very alive, but abruptly died along with Dad.

What can you expect when you lose someone to suicide? You can’t. There are no rules for a scenario like this one. Expect to be confused, extremely sad, to feel sorry for the person, and feel guilt. However, also expect to be pissed off at them, and have no feeling of empathy. You may even feel ashamed and alone. If I have learned anything from the death of my dad, it’s that SO MANY people have lost someone to suicide. We feel like we can’t talk about it because no one will understand, but more people than you know will actually completely understand. My hope is that the survivors of suicide will start to feel more comfortable talking about it. Maybe if it weren’t so taboo, we could heal faster; maybe we’d be more understanding of the causes. If we can be more understanding of the causes, maybe people going through severe depression can feel more comfortable reaching out.

Regardless, I feel better knowing that my Dad is no longer suffering. I am not angry anymore. I am sad that this is what it took to ease his agony, but at least he’s not in that agony anymore. Rest easy Dad. I love you.