A friend commented that I’ve been sharing more suicide and mental health related posts on social media this past while. It’s true, and there are a couple of reasons why that is.
Firstly, it’s an issue that is close to home for me on a very personal note. Not just because I’ve lost someone I love to suicide but also because mental health is something that I live and battle with myself.
Secondly, because even with all of the media attention and education that our society now has exposure to surrounding suicide, we still hold strong to some misconceptions that are dangerously inaccurate.
There are a couple that bother me the most though. The first is that a person who talks about being suicidal or having thoughts of wanting to harm or kill themselves won’t actually do it. That it’s the ones who don’t talk about it that you have to worry about. You know what? Some people talk about it and some don’t. Just because someone is open and shares what is going on inside of them doesn’t make them less at risk. Even if they joke about it and make it sound like it’s not serious, you just can’t be sure.
The other one is that a person who is at imminent risk of killing themselves looks or acts a certain way. There is no one way that someone looks when they are at the point of taking their own life. In fact, I’ve been told by a mental health professional that many people who have been suicidal and come to the decision to complete are actually more upbeat and happy in the hours or day immediately preceding an attempt; not the opposite which we tend to think we should see – the quiet, withdrawn and sad looking person who has “given up”. Often times, people with chronic depression or other mental health issues have grown so adept at masking how they feel that they don’t even know how to let themselves be seen as anything other than “fine” and functional. There are numerous videos and pictures circulating lately showing this.
Here’s mine to add:
This is a picture taken of me on the labour day weekend in 2012; I was with a small group of friends who had gathered to spend the long weekend together at one person’s waterfront house. It was sunny and warm, a lazy, easy going weekend of relaxation was well under way when this picture was snapped. This was taken a few hours before I was supposed to go back into town to run a few errands and then head back to the friends house; continuing the weekend of sunbathing , bbq meals and late nights of laughing and fun.
I had no intention of returning though and had everything in place that I would be found a couple of days later. I had spent the days prior to this picture finalizing suicide plans and details to end my life. Do I look suicidal and sad and despondent? Not at all…I look exactly how I wanted to be seen as: happy and relaxed and all good. Inside I was as far from that as a person could get.
Don’t let these misconceptions fool you and contribute to more loss. Those of us who struggle to live with mental health issues DO talk openly about it – and we also DON’T. We do sometimes look like we’re falling apart and you can see how deeply it hurts – and oftentimes, we look amazingly together and happy, confident, strong and unshakeable.
There is no universal or standard way to gauge how a person is really feeling.