Suicide; the word itself causes parents to dodge the topic faster than they would avoid booking a vacation to Costa Rica in fear of their child contracting the Zika virus. In this scenario, a virus is appropriately compared to the act of suicide because there is only one way to avoid this epidemic once it enters a person’s thoughts: to get better (like one would with the flu) or to succumb (such as The Black Plague). However similar suicide is to a virus –the topic cannot be avoided and is only contracted when a dark crippling thought convinces the person that he or she is better off anywhere but here.
But why do parents avoid this epidemic that has spread triple since social media has made advances;cost of living increases; educational demands are unattainable,and society presents an image via reality television of what happiness is suppose to look like? If you are guilty as a parent of saying “Not my child, she or he has everything. My child has never struggled. We go to church. I am in the PTA and even the Football Booster Team. no, only children who are bullied, or parents are absent.” I am unfortunately going to rock your world by telling you that suicide does not look like heavy metal, black clothing, purple hair, slamming door in your face child. Suicide can look like that, but it can present many deceiving looks.
Suicide looks like a University of Pennsylvania Division One 800 meter champion who told a few friends she would meet them later that night at the dining hall; but instead went to the Penn bookstore and bought gifts for her family before posting a beautiful picture of the Philadelphia lights and plunging off of a garage parking deck. How does a track champion, with an abundance of friends, four siblings, one new nephew and a mother who days earlier said “Madison, you look like you’re so happy at this party.”
“Mom,” Madison said. “It’s just a picture,” ……take her own life?
Suicide looks like Jimmy, who had a retired chief of police father, church going mother, and nurse sister all living in an affluent section of town and valued nothing more than family. Jimmy, once a promising football star with an overwhelming amount of friends posted 24 hours prior to his Easter Sunday passing “Happy National Sibling Day to the Best Sister anyone could have. You are a putz, and I love you,” only to have this same sister crying inconsolable at a kitchen table after learning her little brother would not make Easter dinner because he shot himself blank in the head. Not one warning text, and not one ounce of dysfunctional in his family. He loved his parents, sibling, dog and friends, but it was not enough. The loneliness consumed him.
Suicide also looks like you, mom. The suburban mom living in the desirable area sporting around three teenaged kids who starts giving her jewelery away to her daughter Nicole days prior and even scheduled lunch with a friend moments before fatally hanging herself in the garage to have her youngest child find her. The mother at every track meet who left her daughter years later angry, sad, alone on her wedding day, questioning why she wasnt enough for her mom to be fulfilled.
We have this idea that suicide is supposed to be apparent only in broken homes, poverty stricken, abusive environments. We have this belief that only teenagers and young adults do it. Suicide does not discriminate by age, gender, economic background, and family.
Suicide does not always have to be successful either: Maybe it is that college student who walked on a division one track team and starves herself nearly death to be faster –only resulting in being kicked off the team and leaving a sorority out of pure embarrassment.
Maybe it is that twenty something recent graduate who cuts her flesh due to working a job she completely despises only because society whispers in her ear “Money is the answer to your happiness.” It can be that overly anxious child sitting in front of you trying so hard to earn a trophy or the highest grade in the class that they end up pulling out their hair; the same way it can be that mother who is so overwhelmed with keeping up with the role of being a mom, wife, worker that she fantasies about jumping off a bridge time and again–or the successful businessman who just lost his job due to a disability and would rather swallow pills on the sly than face reality. These are slow suicides.
So how do you save a life? You do not avoid the topic. You do not ignore a Facebook post about a melodramatic break up and brush it off as the person wanting attention. If they seek it, give them it–we all need a hand. You listen to that mother who feels trapped in a mundane life instead of gossiping with other mothers about her constant drama. You do not apply more pressure to the child anxious to strive for perfection–instead you tell them you love them unconditionally. You do not yell at the twenty something for comparing her financial status to others; instead you tell them to love themselves and all will fall into place. Most importantly, you do not blame yourself for not noticing signs..because nothing but nothing lead a person to take their life other than their own demon. With that being said, you live your day constantly, trying to save a life.