I never understood the term, even though I heard the word mentioned. In fact, I even came close comprehending what the word could mean. However as I grew older, my eyes became wise in learning this widespread epidemic that has affected thousands of people throughout the world.
In 2017, I woke up to a message on Facebook that read, “Did you hear the news?” The message spoke about a childhood friend with whom I went to elementary and middle school.
As I was reading the message, a gnawing question had already begun to reverberate within my being. I knew something wasn’t right. I had a feeling within my gut that informed me something wasn’t right.
My mind exclaimed, “Death”. Without even thinking twice, my gut told me someone we knew had died.
I inquired with interest and curiosity, hoping the news would not turn out as dire as it was. I asked an inquisitive question in the hope the news was going to be a bit more optimistic than what I conjured in my mind. So I replied to his message, “What happened?” He was quick to respond: Did you hear about Liam?” No, I said, knowing full well that he had passed away. In a state of denial, I came to ask him what happened to Liam.
After my friend told me, I was curious to know how it happened. I had lost a few relatives to various illnesses and someone else in our school died after an accident. I didn’t expect to hear him say, “He committed suicide”. As my Messenger pinged on my phone, I read the word “suicide”. My knees buckled and I crept back into bed and cried.
I was immersed in my masters in Human Rights Law. I figured that it was best to do something that I was quite passionate about, that is, social justice and human rights. I was in Belgium, alone with no family or close relatives, to visit but just a few close friends that I met through my masters program.
I called my Mom, whose heartwarming words consoled me a little. Her words helped but weren’t enough. Liam was a classmate who I had a little crush on but was afraid to admit. At one point he liked me and asked me out in 7th grade but I was too afraid to say, “Yes!” I thought about my Nigerian parents’ stereotypical response had they found out I had a boyfriend in middle school, so I said, “No!” In my moment of despair, I felt like I could have helped him. I felt that I could have made him happy. As far-fetched as it sounds, I felt that maybe if I dated him, he wouldn’t have ended up dead. I felt that had I been warmer in demeanor, or more sensitive to the demons he may have been struggling with, that he would not have suffered a lonely despair.
After hearing the news, I went on Facebook and clicked onto his profile, which didn’t help me at all; it caused my wound to ache with greater intensity. I noticed that his Facebook page was flooded with comments saying, “Rest in peace”, “Wish you were here!” Messages of love, endearment and acknowledgement were all over his page, yet none acknowledged the issue he had endured. I couldn’t retrieve any message that shed light to the illness his mind suffered.
We are all familiar with the term, we know the effects, we know some of the factors, yet we have yet to find a way to ameliorate the rise of the public health epidemic known as “suicide”.
Suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of all deaths worldwide and the second leading cause of all deaths among 15-29 year-olds throughout the world. In the U.S., it is the tenth leading cause of all death and the third leading cause of all deaths among 15-24 years old.
We know that 1 in 5 American adults experience some form of mental illness in any given year. We can even list celebrities that have died to suicide such as Robin Williams, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain, to name a few. However, more effort is required to address mental health. With more policies and increased awareness of suicide and other mental health disorders we can bring hope to many people.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental illness, please don’t be embarrassed to reach out for help from loved ones, friends, teachers, clergy. Get help. Stay connected with those who care about you.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, whether they are considering suicide or not, please call the toll free line to speak with a trained counselor 24/7: 800-273-TALK (8255)
Better Help offers online counseling services for anyone that needs help and is struggling with life’s challenges. https://www.betterhelp.com/