Suicide awareness during a pandemic

If you are contemplating suicide, I want to start by telling a story. A year ago, I found a note on the phone of one of my best friends. She was getting ready to say goodbye. She had written out a list of names, and her final words to each person.. That was the start of one of the most terror-stricken days of my life. She was very open with the fact that she was depressed, but I would have never expected her to want to leave everyone behind. We had plans that night. I wanted her to talk to my mom, so we could figure out a way to get her help. But when the time rolled around for us to pick her up, she never answered her phone. My intuition told me something was wrong, very wrong. I forced my mom to drive me to her house. I knew she was home alone. When we got there, we knocked on the door and no one answered. I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. We tried to get in contact with her, or and even attempted to break into her house. After 15 minutes of trying, she opened her front door. Wordlessly, I started to cry. I thought one of my best friends had died. I thought I was too late. But she was still here, and in those 15 minutes she taught me more about the true dangers of depression than I had learned in 16 years. 

Suicide is an uncomfortable topic; it always has been. However, the month of September can give those who have struggled a platform to honor those we have lost, and prevent the loss of anyone else. With that being said, suicidal thoughts can stem from many different forms of mental illness or in response to severe life stressors. With this pandemic, there has been an increased amount of people who have developed mental illnesses. A staggering 45% of American Adults have reported that the Coronavirus had a severe negative impact on their mental health. That statistic translates to high school students as well. Everyone has dealt with some form of struggle, but we as a student body must do more to destigmatize mental health within our community, especially during such trying times.

There is a stigma that has surrounded mental health for as long as it has existed. We as a society need to talk about the fact that it is okay to not be okay. It is not a choice to contemplate suicide. Suicidal thoughts are complex and need to be greeted with kindness and empathy, not disgust and disappointment. The way to destigmatize such thoughts is to talk about them, even if it is not something you are currently feeling. Therapy should not be seen as something negative; it can be helpful to anyone who appears anywhere on the mental health spectrum. Talk to one another and start the conversations that allow you to check up on your friends

But what do suicidal thoughts look like from an outside perspective? The high school social worker, Mrs. Kerr says that, “A change in behavior can be a big indicator of depression.” She cites that a lack of care for one’s appearance, a withdrawal from friends, a loss of interest in school or outside activities, sleep problems, bouts of anger, and a feeling of hopelessness, can also be signs that someone is dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts. In many cases of contemplation, those who are suffering will often hint or talk about how they are feeling, or sometimes even what they are planning. In a case where someone shares this with you, please speak up and make a trusted adult aware, in order to save their life.

From the perspective of a friend, it often can feel as if you can’t speak up when you see the signs that point to someone dealing with mental health struggles. However, it is better to speak up and be wrong than it is to lose someone you care about. Mrs Kerr says, “They might not appreciate what you did at first, but people know you really care when you go to get them help.”

As a final thought, Mrs. Kerr wanted the student body to know, “We all have challenges, we all have dark thoughts and feel hopeless at times. But it will pass. These feelings are normal and you are not alone.” Kerr is always available to talk in the Student Services office.

In the case that you aren’t available to talk directly to Mrs. Kerr, your counselor is also a great resource. You can also text “Hello” to 741741 to be immediately connected to someone that you can talk about your feelings with if you happen to not be in school one day.

If you are contemplating suicide, you are not alone. You are loved. You matter. You belong. You are strong. You will survive this. And you will only end up stronger than you have ever been before. Help is here for you.

If you ever feel like you are in an unsafe mental position call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.