Steen

”If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” — Mother Teresa

He took the easy way out.

She was a coward.

They were so selfish, thinking only of themselves.

The truth for so many is more like this, though, “I was driving down the road/sitting in the living room looking at the bottle/playing with the gun and thinking 1) how much happier they would be if they didn’t have to deal with/worry about/think of me, or 2) that the pain/pressure/bullying/ridicule/arguments would end.”

These are not the words of selfish, easy way out, people. These are the words of people who believe they are being their bravest in that moment, though probably not who they are in the more balanced moments.

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

National Suicide Hotline

It’s so easy to assume everyone reading my words is on the healthy end, ready to help others, but that just isn’t always true. With more than 700,000 people dying to suicide every year, there’s a good chance you and I might be on the end of the those who have considered or will attempt to call it quits.

For every 25 attempted suicides, one will succeed. Maybe I can’t change the world with my words, but maybe one person’s world will be helped to know they aren’t the only one who has felt as they are feeling.

Feeling like you just can’t overcome whatever obstacles are in the way of your having the life you want is a really hard place to be. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t. I went through a period of time in my life where it felt as if everywhere I turned, people were turning on me, and the message I continued to hear was that I must not be worth much to anyone.

It would have been such a sad end if I had allowed other people’s choices to control my desire to live or my feelings of worth. But I know that every day, other people are feeling those very things I felt and not choosing to stay in life.

When you and I make being a part of life difficult for others by the stipulations and conditions we place on them, we help push them a little closer to the edge. So, while we are ultimately not responsible for someone else’s decisions, we can do so much to help them stay closer to safety and sanity.

Eventually, a person might need to be held accountable for their part on a team, in a club, and especially in a job and a family, but I wonder if we might show some grace when they are dealing with too many stressors at one time.

There have been a handful of times in my life when I have received the news that someone I cared about died at their own hand. My first awareness of this began in middle school. A girl in my classroom didn’t come back to school one morning, and I heard the teachers talking about how she killed herself. She had committed suicide.

Middle school was too early to understand and much too early to have lost a classmate, but from that day forward, I have been very aware of people who might be hurting. In her case, the message was clear — her report card was a problem, and she didn’t want to face whatever punishment might come. Stress and fear of not being able to get out of a mess are big drivers of suicide, a permanent solution to temporary problems.

With September being Suicide Prevention Month, I have thought a lot about people I’ve known who have chosen to kill themselves:

• someone with a debilitating disease didn’t want to continue to suffer

• someone who felt out of place and saw no way to fit in

• someone dealing with COVID deaths in a hospital daily who couldn’t find the tools to help himself. In fact, physicians commit suicide at twice the rate of the general population, and this has not seen a decrease during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Doctors deal with your problems and mine, and then they have their own problems. Mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, substance abuse issues (because they often look for something to dull their own pain), and general burnout all contribute to physician suicide.

During the pandemic, they now deal with even more issues, like isolation and patients who refuse the benefit of their knowledge until the patient is needing to be saved. Medical professionals (more than just doctors) need our attention, appreciation, and trust more than ever. Their families are often left holding the pieces. Perhaps we can help them find a little peace.

Research shows the things you and I can do to best help people who are feeling suicidal or are in a situation that could lend itself to suicidal tendencies is to be aware, to reach out, and to be available. You and I also can do everything “right” to help someone, but if they are determined to find a way out of life, they will, and we are not responsible or failing them.

You can reach out online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ OR Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor OR if you need to hear a real voice, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Put these in your phone right now, and you’ll have them when you or someone else needs them. And if you have a smartphone, find the app Virtual Hope Box. In that, you will be provided with tools to help yourself in a moment of distress. From playing a game of sudoku to planning an activity, the app is a wonderful way to get through the tough moments.

• Watch out for teenagers who are being bullied or feeling like outsiders.

• Watch out for veterans who are having a difficult time navigating the civilian world.

• Watch out for middle-aged people who don’t know how to get out from some mess they’ve found themselves in.

• Watch out for elderly people who are depressed and feeling alone.

• Watch out for signs in yourself of thinking that getting out is the solution.

We don’t need to go through our days alone. We don’t have to feel we have no one who cares. We can know a little more peace when we remember that we belong to each other.

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others. She can be reached at (stories@susanbsteen.com).

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