Ever since March (when the pandemic hit), my mental health has been a top concern of mine. As I mentioned in past blogs, I struggle with situational anxiety. Much like others who wrestle with their mental health, COVID-19, and everything else happening in the world has intensified the heaviness and challenge to balance it all out. In fact, for the past 6 months, my anxiety hasn’t been situational at all, it’s been pretty steady. Ya see, aside from the pandemic and making sure I and my loved ones are safe and cared for, I am also working harder and longer than I have ever before, and I have taken on a new role, that of fulltime homeschool teacher. My plate is overflown. So to practice this thing we call self-care, I decided to scrape what I can off my plate for the month, and writing a new blog made the cut.
I began to look at past blogs to see what I wanted to reshare, and I found one where i highlight an important cause & worldwide epidemic, which we need to become more aware of and concerned about. The blog I am going to share with you today is one I wrote for Suicide Prevention Month (which is the month of Sept). This blog was influenced by a time where some of my nearest and dearest were struggling, in silence. At this time, two of them bravely confessed to me that they either thought about or at one point tried taking their own life. Let me preface, these were pretty close friends, friends who were my rocks in life, friends who are deemed “the strong ones”, friends who never broke, they fixed. And what I had come to find out (and realize myself) are the ‘strong’ struggle too, sometimes even more so. Those conversations were the catalyst for this blog. Those intimate admissions empowered me to pay closer attention. Check-in more. Pinky-promise with each one of them my 24/7 presence in their life…no matter what time/day/occasion/etc. I was there. I was their person (and they were mine).
After reading this blog, I encourage you to think about the last time you reached out to your tribe of people, just because. When was the last time you checked in, took their mental temperature, and let them know you loved them? If it has been a while, I hope you make this a priority today. I drafted a short letter I wrote to my tribe and I share it in this blog. I am giving you permission to take it, share it, make it your own. Because, as I can attest, you never know who that note will help or possibly even save.
Be well my friends.
The words everyone dreads hearing: “Can we talk?”
Why? Because often we don’t want to hear or accept what comes next.
Well, I urge you to hear me out, because what I am about to reveal affects us all, whether it be directly or once-removed. This time last week, reality gave me a swift kick in the ass, when someone I admire and care for, a tribe member here at The Daily Feels, shared his blog revealing his attempted suicide, six years ago. If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to do so (“A Simple Goodbye”by Peter Dunn).
Peter’s story not only awakened this ignorant giant in me, but it’s what happened next that shook me to my core. The days after Peter’s blog launched, my inbox started filling up with “me too” emails. No, not the #MeToo we’re all familiar with, but something equally as important.
Peter’s story allowed people to come together and admit something they’d kept hidden out of shame and discomfort. I had FIVE emails and two phone calls waiting for me, each one commending Peter’s brave reveal and the relatability. They too had walked hand in hand with attempting suicide. The most shocking part of all? Out of those seven people who were brave enough to share this with me, there were two I knew pretty well. I consider them friends, and yet I never knew they had thought about or planned a departure from this world. How could I not have known this? How could they not have told me back when they were struggling? How could I have been so blind and deaf to their darkness? How??
I have thought about this for a week now and just started to raise the topic of mental health and suicide with a handful of people. Here’s the feedback I received:
“Why are we talking about this?”
“Can we change the subject, please?”
“God, you’re bringing me down.”
And then I got IT.
Suicide is a topic that is often dismissed, due to the sadness & discomfort associated with it. This is a topic that is still taboo because one must be crazy if they bring up such a subject matter, right?! This topic scares many people because they immediately think you’re in trouble…and maybe you are, but avoiding the conversation is not the fucking answer.
So, what is the answer? I wish I knew, but the less we talk about it and don’t address this worldwide epidemic, the further away we are from figuring it out. This could be why those seven people didn’t call out for help. Because they might have been dismissed or deemed crazy or told “you’re bringing me down”. I racked my brain, wondering if I have ever made a friend feel this way.
I immediately called back one of the friends who disclosed their attempt. I had so many questions and she was the one person who could answer them. I asked her if I missed something? Did I not pick up on something during her time of need? Did I ever dismiss her? As she put it, “I find that people with suicidal thoughts, and who plan their suicide, are great at hiding it, for the mere fact that if they tell someone, they might be stopped. I hid it from everyone, even my boyfriend at the time and we were living together. Here’s the thing about it, Jan. if you’re really in the bell jar (like I was), and want to end your life, you’re not giving any clues to those close to you, because you want to succeed at the attempt. On the contrary, If someone calls you and admits to wanting to kill themselves, yes, be concerned, but know that they want to be stopped before committing the act.”
Whereas that was a difficult conversation to have, I felt grateful for her share and that she was still here, gracing me and all who love her, with her specialness.
With that gratitude, I started to acknowledge the ways I could become more aware. How I can possibly be more present, more involved in the lives of the people I love. It was then that I made a pledge of sorts, a commitment to myself and my tribe. Four simple agreements that I will now hold myself responsible for:
+ I am committed to becoming better informed about suicide and mental health as a whole.
+ I am committed to becoming more conscious…to stop scrolling, texting, snapping, Instagramming…to look up and be more present.
+ I am committed to paying closer attention… not only to the friends who freely express their sadness but more importantly to the ones who don’t. Take note of the strong ones; they often feel the need to carry the heavy weight themselves, because asking for help seems weak. The two friends who reached out to me after Peter’s blog, yeah, they’re the strong ones.
+ I am committed to becoming more open to those I love, so they never feel alone, unloved, unworthy of staying on this beautiful earth. And no discussion is off limits.
I kicked-started this pledge by arming myself with the facts. When I am at a loss, when I don’t have the answers, when I am desperately trying to find a solution, I seek out information. I educate myself, so I am better equipped to take action. I spent a full day researching. I sat there at the end of it all, realizing how our society has buried our heads in the sand about this crisis, myself included. I mean, shit, I didn’t even know September was Suicide Prevention Month, did you? Here’s what else I didn’t know:
- In the US, 1 in 5 adults suffer from a form of mental illness
- Suicide takes the lives of over 44,965 Americans every year (800,000 ppl worldwide)
- Every day, approximately 123 Americans die by suicide. (CDC)
- Among people ages 15 to 34, suicide is the second-leading cause of death (the 10thleading cause of death in the US for all ages)
- Suicide among males is 4x’s higher than among females. Male deaths represent 79% of all US suicides. (CDC)
- Lesbian, gay, and bisexual kids are 3x more likely than straight kids to attempt suicide at some point in their lives
- Only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression receive treatment. (NAMI)
- 80% -90% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication. (TAPS study)
- An estimated quarter million people each year become suicide survivors. (AAS)
- There is one suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts. (CDC)
- Suicide rates have risen 25% in the past 17 years (CDC).
So with all that you just learned…did your jaw just hit the floor? Did your heart break wide open? Do you now feel the need to actively do something about it? Do you want to commit to being more conscious and mindful of what those around you might be going through?
After my research spree, I added to this pledge of mine, by writing a brief, straightforward, love letter to those two friends who reached out to me last week, and then I released it to others in my close-knit tribe. If you like it, steal it, share it, tweak it, release it to those you feel need to hear it, letting them know you’re there for them, ALWAYS.
We need to talk. I wanted to reach out and tell you that I love you. I am ever so grateful to be walking this earth alongside you. I know life gets hectic and heavy and too much to bear at times, but I want you to know something…I AM YOUR PERSON. I am your person if you ever want to talk about any scary thoughts you might be having, no matter how dark or alarming, I am here to listen. I want to sit beside you in the darkness for as long as it takes to prove that you’re loved, and express it to you over and over again, that this world would be so much less special without you. I want to be the person who makes the calls you need to seek guidance. I want to be the person to take you to whatever doctor, specialist, therapist you need to see, to feel better. I want to be the person who holds your hand for as long as you’ll let me. I want you to live. I want you alive so you can be that person for someone else. I love you.
So this is my mission, and hopefully yours at this point…to reach out to the people we love more often, pay more attention to them, listen intently, love them, continue to let them know you’re happy they’re alive. Because maybe that’s the outreach, the conversation that can make a difference. That’s the conversation I will forever be committed to having.
If you or someone you know is in need of support or just want to be better informed, here are the resources I found helpful:
The number to call if you or someone you know is in crisis.
Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways. Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 9-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.