To the heavy-hearted Angel who stepped off the ledge
If there was a way to save time and moments in a bottle
We would have frozen the moments before you took that fateful walk
We would have frozen the times you talked to us and listen just a little bit more
We would have frozen the moments you felt hopeless and offer you a warm embrace
We would have frozen your troubled days and turn them into treasured days
If only words could make wishes come true, we would have you for an eternity
Rest in eternal peace
In the early hours of the morning, she steals her way through the walkways of the balcony on the fourth floor. Her feet leading the way but her mind hauls her along like a horse pulling a carriage. She follows the pathway on her journey to the ledge. Maybe she glanced occasionally at the sky; maybe she glanced occasionally at the heavens. The sanctity of life which surrounded her may have been lost as she walked towards demise. She finally made it to the ledge and for a brief moment, she wobbled between life and death. Moments later, the world awoke to her heartbreaking choice. A choice which led to the gut-wrenching screams of her father because his sunshine is no more.
The idea that someone chooses to die is troubling and frightening to most. As a result, suicide has never been an easy topic to discuss. Suicides, unfortunately, are an everyday occurrence in the world. Research shows that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 24. Depression, mental illness, and suicidal thoughts are three of the most alarming things a person can face in their lifetime. Talking about suicides, however, does save lives. The number one question we ask when someone commits suicide is “why?” We most likely follow that question with:
“Why did he or she not talk to me?”
“Did he or she have someone to talk to?”
The ugly truth is that the question is actually the answer. Most of those who commit suicide do talk and they talk a lot. Sometimes the talking is not the words they speak, it is manifested in their actions and behavior.
The question we have to ask ourselves as we begin this conversation is:
Some families are struggling with depressed loved ones. Who is supporting these families with their daily battles?
Did we listen enough to those closest to us who are suffering?
Did we recognize that their unconventional and unnatural behavior was a disease which needed treatment?
Are we still laughing at depressed and mentally ill people because of their unnatural behavior?
Do our society and government have the resources to treat severe depression and mental illness?
Talking about the causes of suicide openly, in my opinion, is the answer and the best way to stop the next person who is thinking about taking their life. If one person can be saved from committing suicide by talking about it with someone, it is worth it. It’s time to go beyond just reporting the recent suicides on the news. It’s time to go beyond sending messages of shock and condolences on social media. It’s time for us to have a real conversation about suicide. It’s time for us to recognize that we all have significant roles to play in preventing suicides. It’s time for us to act decisively on behalf of our loved ones and friends who are hopelessly lost in the murky waters of severe depression and mental illness.
Each week, dozens of my readers send me emails detailing troubling relationship problems and issues they are dealing with. I am not a relationship expert but I respond with my thoughts based on my own experiences. Over time, most of the questions I received remained unanswered because there was never enough hours in the day to respond to every message, or so I thought.
Following the news of the unfortunate death of the young female student who tragically committed suicide on the University of Ghana campus, I did something I had failed to do for months. I got on my laptop and answered every single email from my readers seeking advice, direction and my input on a relationship problem they were dealing with. It took me a total of five hours to respond to each question but each second was worth my time and attention. From my perspective, I failed them the first time but I can try to make amends, apologize and ask if they still need someone to listen.
When I finally closed my laptop from exhaustion, I was hit with a dire realization; one which caused me to flip my laptop open again and spend the next three hours writing this article. After reading through a hundred or so emails, it occurred to me that most of the questions I was asked had very simple and clear solutions. Case in point, if a boyfriend keeps cheating on you and you seek my counsel, I will be inclined to just respond with a two or three letter statement; “forget about him” or “move on.” Sounds like an easy solution, doesn’t it? Turns out, if you place yourself in the shoes of the one asking the question and somehow try to identify with the crushing predicament they find themselves in, the solution does not appear that simple. I came to the realization that for a person battling depression as a result of a relationship problem or a traumatic life event, the path to a permanent solution is more complicated.
For someone dealing with emotional stress, the solution was not just an answer to a question. The solution involved addressing the larger issue of the emotional ties and entanglement to their partner or the situation. It is quite easy for most of us to ask another to move on and forget about a troublesome partner. In doing so, we fail to recognize the deep emotional ties which caused the trauma in the first place. Some invest their whole being into a relationship. One cannot simply switch off deep emotional ties like a light switch. We must linger a little longer to explore all options and alternatives with a person struggling for answers to a problem.
People are facing real issues out there with relationships and life in general. Some families live with worry and fear every day. They do not know when their loved ones may hurt themselves. People we are close to will turn to us for help and advice. We have to begin recognizing the important traits and symptoms of a loved one or a friend whose problems in life can lead to severe depression. We have to be willing to listen a little longer and follow up with them a little more. If the friend or loved ones has shown signs of mental illness in the past, we cannot dismiss their disjointed responses simply because we will react differently when faced with the same problem. Sometimes, we look in bewilderment at friends and loved ones struggling with relationship problems and wonder why they cannot simply implement the solution that we can easily see. I had the same thought process when I started to receive emails in the past. I will look at a question and wonder with amusement why a reader will even ask for a solution in the first place.
Relationship problems can flip someone’s world upside down and trigger a wide range of emotions. These emotions can easily cloud a person’s judgment especially when depression sets in. Consequently, some of us may mistake a loved one or friend’s hesitancy or inability to recognize or implement an easy solution as whimsical or just plain stupid. Some people are wired to quickly accept the demise of a relationship and move on. Others, however, may enter into a world of depression. Their relationship demise is heartbreaking and they feel like their world is truly falling apart. Universally, we can all accept that sadness and a heightened emotional state are normal reactions when dealing with heartbreaks or relationship issues. However, it is important to recognize the symptoms of depression when our friends and loved ones are having a more difficult time dealing with relationship matters, moving on or fail to see a clear solution.
I believe people who live with suicidal tendencies more often than not, feel very hopeless. They are hurting so badly and they want the pain to end. They just cannot find an easy way to end the pain. Our simple solution to just “move on” sounds dismissive to them. When we make them feel unintelligent because they fail to accept an obvious solution, we solidify their belief that no one can help the pain go away. This let down by friends and loved ones leads them to imagine that the pain is permanent. They cannot see the light at the end of the very dark tunnel. Most often, people consider suicide as a way to end the pain because they are unable to find any reason to make living worthwhile. They think their problems are unsolvable and the best way out is to end their very existence.
Most people who take their own life suffer from an untreated mental illness or severe depression. Some signs to look for includes mood disorder such as epic highs and crushing lows. Another sign to look for is drastic changes in physical appearance from week to week or in some extreme cases, on a daily basis. Pay attention to unprovoked crying spells or inability to cry or continuous irritability. Negative life events can trigger a display of the symptoms of depression and mental illness. Sometimes, you do not need to look for signs when they tell you themselves that they are depressed. In my opinion, friends and family must relentlessly provide support for anyone who experiences traumatic events such as a sudden end of a relationship, a sudden death of a loved one or someone who is struggling to cope with an unfaithful partner, domestic or sexual abuse.
So what can we do as a society to prevent suicides? I will admit that there are no quick and easy solutions to this complex phenomenon. Perhaps a starting point is to consider our response to incidents of suicide. Perhaps a starting point is to consider our responses to the questions being asked by emotionally distressed friends and loved ones. Perhaps a starting point is to admit that depression and mental illness is a problem which needs our full attention, not ridicule or avoidance. Perhaps a starting point is to support families struggling with loved ones with mental illness and severe depression.
We are not all trained to diagnose severe depression or mental illness. However, we are in a position to notice the symptoms. We are also in the best position to seek help for friends and loved ones. One approach I have personally taken to initiate an inquiry into suicidal thoughts when I notice symptoms is to ask this general question.
Ending suicides means not going silent about the problem or changing the subject when it comes up. We as a society must start talking openly about depression and mental illness as comfortably as we talk about the latest fashion trend. This problem is complex and the solution will involve more people talking about the issue. Talking about the issue openly can lead to support structures such as suicide prevention hotlines or facilities where people suffering from mental illness can seek help. Talking more about the issue will signal to anyone suffering that people do care to listen and assist. Talking about this issue especially with suffering loved ones or friends in a non-dismissive manner will not only help solve the problem, hopefully, it can also be life-saving.
By Kwadjo Panyin
Kwadjo Panyin is a Ghanaian born relationship and lifestyle blogger located in Los Angeles, California. He holds three degrees; a Bachelors degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey, an MBA from Franklin University in Ohio and a Masters of Science degree from Northern Kentucky University in Kentucky. Kwadjo is a business professional who blogs for fun. His articles are about the challenges of dating and relationship anomalies. Writing, blogging, world travel, and photography are his favorite hobbies.