Care Warning: This article discusses in detail a wide range of mental health-related topics, including suicide. Additionally, I am not a mental health professional nor is this article giving healthcare or any professional advic
WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY — September 14, 2022 — September is annually recognized as Suicide Prevention Month.
I don’t know the technical sociological or anthropological term for the following. Many people today, regardless of political ideology, have a visceral reaction when seeing people who have been historically suppressed advocate for themselves. Maybe a culture shock of sorts. A normalization, and over time a psychological engraving that there needs to be a different face to those directly affected by a failed government. This tends to center the “ally” than the marginalized group at hand, delegitmizing them. Of course, allies, accomplices, need to be a part of this advocacy. But when those of the lived experiences aren’t uplifted and prioritized, it may as well be the suppression they are fighting against.
I personally noticed this when homeless/unhoused individuals were starting to be covered more by mainstream media in their admirable efforts towards housing justice. Here in New York State, I had my own initial shock seeing homeless people at the Capitol Building demanding pieces of crucial legislation like “Good Cause Eviction”. Though I know I’m not the only one, I’m proud that I’m able to let myself experience that initial second of shock without judgement, preconceived notions and all, and then unpack it after.
Seeing these directly impacted people doing such great work when they really shouldn’t have to, I thought about this concept in relation to my own advocacy. One of the main efforts I have been organizing about is the NYS “Student Suicide Prevention Act” which would enact and require “the governing board or body of every local educational agency serving students in grades seven to twelve, to adopt policies, procedures, and guidelines on student suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention for students in such grades.” I am a suicide-attempt survivor which occurred in my junior year of high school. Though suicide prevention tends to receive support on the federal level across political lines, this state measure has been stagnant for a while now. Regardless, we move forward and we are advancing.
I’ve been receiving professional mental health support since I was roughly eight or nine years old. I cried a lot as a kid. Though I experience the ups and downs of life with everything in between, I have always been a deeply sad individual. I have been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. Though clinicians have confirmed that outside stimuli have contributed to the current state of my mental and emotional health what I experience is certainly genetic. I have seen a wide range of different types of therapists. Social workers, psychologists, and currently a psycho-analyst. The latter type of therapy I’m really into, and it seems to be tapping into the core of my pain and trauma. The journey of healing and management is rough, but knowing how to be fully on this path, and doing so, is necessary.
I’m on a mood stabilizer and an anti-depressant. My current medications and their compatibility with myself and each other were determined through what I consider a significant breakthrough in medical technology: GeneSight. Instead of continuing the “trial and error” method of medication, this route gets right to the point and reduces prolonged and unnecessary suffering. My anxiety is now mostly managed minus occasional, intense episodes. My depression is still present, but I feel more stable in experiencing it when it’s in full force and when it’s underlying.
I don’t reach enough of the symptoms or “qualifiers” to be considered to have bipolar disorder. However, I’m told and agree that my depression behaves in a “semi-bipolar manner”. Semi in the sense that yes, it is, but also just in general with my other emotions that occur in a natural, healthy way and are filtered through my depression. Or rather, they are authentically things like joy, excitement, content, etc., but they put on a coat of depression before going outside thinking it’s cold out.
There’s a lot going on here, clearly. What I make sure to do is remind myself that though my current mental health reality is exactly that, my reality, this is not me. It is not who I am. What I feel and think needs to be treated like I am speaking with my child version of myself; gently and without judgment. Even then, my mental health, healthy or unhealthy, is not me.
I am always suicidal. Let me back up and explain. There needs to be more accessible suicide education for the public. There is passive and active suicidal ideation. I am always passively suicidal. Being passively suicidal should not be mistaken as simply waking up for work and dreading the day on some sort of extreme level. You would be surprised by the number of people who make these type of associations. However, I don’t judge those that want to understand and learn more. The willingness to truly learn in general should never be judged. With this, there are some distinctions that should be made clear.
Hypothetically, if you were to state that if you got into an unintentional, not of your doing, massive car accident that killed you, you would be okay with it. That can be a form of passive suicidal ideation. If you state that you knew you were having a phone conversation with someone on the sidewalk while standing under a piano being lifted into an Upper East Side residence in Manhattan, you wouldn’t care if it dropped on you and killed you. That can be a form of active suicidal ideation. Is that incident really an accident if you are knowingly putting yourself in potential harms way? Those are most likely things to discuss with a mental health professional.
I have been questioned by family, friends, aquantinces, and strangers alike in my suicide prevention advocacy. They say things like “Do you think you are able to do this type of work?”, “Maybe you shouldn’t be doing this type of work if it’s going to have an affect ‘like this’ on you”, or “Why did you enter this type of work if it only brings you more mental pain?” I try my best to explain to them why the wording of their questions or statements is invalidating and disempowers people. Also, their questioning tends to not be fully true. I also try my best not to internalize it. A lot of the time it’s people frustrated in seeing me “suffer”. But in the end of the day, I’m still a capable human being. I still have passions, hopes, and dreams. I still have discomfort, anger, sadness, and experience mourning and loss. Since I am not my mental and emotional conditions, ebbs and flows occur. We each are beyond our humanity, thinking, and immediate world.
I advocate for suicide prevention for multiple reasons. Suicidology research and data very much interests me. It’s an
ointricate field of study that requires multiple different lenses or perspectives in approaching it. Of course, my lived experience motivates me as well. What led me down the path of a suicide attempt, the current state of my mental health, how I view and interact with the world, and how I view and interact with my internal sense of self all clearly drew me to this advocacy. This type of activism is literally intertwined with every part of our lives.
When we talk about housing justice, we are talking about the mental ramifications of not being able to pay the rent or mortgage (not landlord/property owner mortgages, they are the problem). A socioeconomic failure toward the people that releases an immense and consistent level of stress hormones that affect us on a cellular level. One of the basic needs of humanity is shelter. When you consistently feel you may lose your shelter, your sense of home for many, your quality of life is simply not there. The homeless population is growing at a rapid rate. These individuals are those whose lives have collapsed around them, and experience high levels of severe mental illness due to our failed housing and economic policies on the local, state, and federal levels. They are treated as inhumane, and sociologically, are treated as “invisible” by the average person. Social isolation and outcasing. This on top of police roundups and destruction towards the homeless which adds insult to injury.
I could unravel a million other examples. Immigrants, sex workers (find more information here), LGBTQ+, BIPOC, AAPI, Latinx, disabled/differently abled people, the massive wealth disparity, connectors that make mental health a human rights issue. Mental health is one of the main signifiers of whether or not a society is functioning. We need to further destigmatize mental health and that starts with us; socially and culturally by having those important discussions, and getting involved with mental health advocacy like suicide prevention. Deep rooted, systemic change is needed… well… with literally most issues you can think of.
As a Queer Rights Activist, I am involvied in a multitude of topics “directly” and “indirectly” related. All issues are queer rights issues. This includes suicide prevention advocacy because I, again, am a survivor and continue to experience similar and umbrella feelings/thoughts/conditions related to the experience I survived. I am an advocate for suicide prevention because we must validate and address preventable suffering and tragedies from our oneness so that we feel both our love and our pain together.
I take care of myself. That does not halt my truth and that I am a multi-faceted human being like everyone else. I experience life and the human condition like anyone else. I move through my individual life and will continue to be a changemaker towards the larger issues. We are increasingly bringing to the larger media and governmental scale the lived experiences that should be centered in the advocacy towards these issues. Ethos, pathos, logos, all lived experiences need to lead all advocacy efforts and receive their due attention. Bringing forward oneness is vital towards these issues, and what we owe simply for each of our individual lives. To conclude, we are the individual collective.
Dial “988” anywhere in the U.S.
Jed Foundation: (For all)
The Trevor Project (LGBTQ+ youth & young adults):
Click here for call, chat, and text options.
Trans Lifeline: (Trans and Nonbinary individuals)
Click here for contact options.