I remember when I quit smoking cigarettes just over a decade ago. Every time one of those TRUTH ads came on the TV or radio, the only thing I could think about was how badly I wanted to smoke in that very moment. It was like a reminder that I was in fact a smoker and that I hadn’t had one yet that day, or week, and on into months. It took years for the feeling to go away, and for the advertisements to fade back into unnoticed background noise. At the mere talk of TRUTH, the cravings would start in my fingers and linger in my throat. It’s funny how you don’t seem to notice any of the public cries for prevention and/or ‘help’ in certain areas until after you actually need it personally. And, then, more often than not, it has the opposite effect than intended. Once it’s brought up, that’s all you can think about.
Sadly enough, the same thing goes for suicide prevention campaigns.
Ever since that day, the one where suicide flipped my entire life upside down, and left me to carry a burden so painful that at least once a day I can’t hardly breathe, I notice EVERY SINGLE AD. A voice comes on the radio with pure messages about affected families and loved ones, with every intention of helping people in mental health need… and suddenly his face pops in my head. As do the faces of his kids, his wife, his brothers, and his parents. I think of his laugh and smile, and then replace it in thought with the nasty details that his family witnessed on that horrible evening.
The other night my husband and I went out for dinner, and as I drove to our favorite local restaurant a suicide prevention ad came blasting through the speakers of my car. My grip tightened around the wheel, and I turned to him demanding.
“Why?” I angrily asked, more to myself than anything.
“Why what?” he asked.
“Why was there never any of these commercials before ***** shot himself? Now all of the sudden they’re on between every damn song?!”
My husband is so sweet and patient, I really don’t deserve him. He reached for one of my hands, pulling it from the wheel to his face and kissed it.
“They’ve always been on. You just didn’t notice it before. Let’s not think about it tonight, and have a nice dinner, ok?”
And, that was that. He pulled me back to the now, with the purest and simplest statement possible.
Today is World Suicide Prevention day, and as I scroll through my social media outlets that word is everywhere. Suicide, Suicide, Suicide. Part of me wants to crawl in a hole, and part of me wants to wrap my arms around everyone else I know who’s ever been affected and squeeze until the pain goes away.
But, I think, what I’ll actually do is this:
I’ll sit down and make a list. I’ll write the names of those who are closest to me that I love, and that I know have a history of sucide-threats, depression, addiction, marriage/family problems, and overall mental health struggles at one point or another in their lives. I’ll take that list and give every single person on it a call. A mere conversation with laughs and love, no mentioning of anything negative or suggestive, no motives, no pointing out the shit side of their lives. Just a simple I love you will do.