In 2014, 42,773 Americans died by suicide. One of those was my friend Robert. He is not just a statistic, nor are the other 42,772 represented by that number.
The suicide rate in the U.S. has recently hit a 30-year high according to an article in the New York Times. The overall suicide rate in America rose by 24% between 1999 and 2014. And more than 800,000 people die by suicide around the world every single year.
Is that not shocking to you? It’s shocking to me, and yet, I can understand the desperation of each of those numbers.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Let’s be a part of the conversation.
Last Fall I got a semi-colon tattooed on my wrist. To many, it’s an odd little thing (especially my parents). But for me, it’s a victory sign. It’s a reminder that as dark as depression can feel at times, it is only a pause. Not a period. It is not the end of the story.
My story is not over.
I am huge supporter of an organization called To Write Love on Her Arms. To Write Love on Her Arms is “a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.”
The TWLOHA community was an incredible speaker of hope during days I felt were hopeless. I now join with them in speaking against the stigma of depression and other mental health issues. I want to normalize the conversation.
Each year TWLOHA picks a phrase to champion during Suicide Prevention Week. This year the phrase is “so I kept living.”
It is from a gem of a book called Reasons to Stay Alive, in which the author writes about his own journey through depression and anxiety. It is a must read for everyone who knows someone battling depression (which, statistically, is all of us).
In the book, author Matt Haig writes of standing on a cliff in Ibiza contemplating taking the last step to end his life. “I think life always provides reasons to not die, if we listen hard enough. . . And so I kept living.”
What a great exercise for me to share that I kept living because there are three amazing kids who need their mom.
Because my husband told me, “we’ll get through this together.”
Because I told people when I wasn’t OK, and they listened to me.
Because a tenacious counselor told me week after week not to underestimate my resilience. He spoke hope over me again and again.
Because I remembered what it was like to love what I do.
Because I had words to share.
I kept living because I knew my life was precious to the God of the universe.
I kept living.
And here I am. I am alive, and I am speaking hope.
If you are struggling today, will you please tell someone? Depression lies. It tells you you are alone, but you are not. You are not alone.
If you want to help someone struggling, would you consider giving to the efforts of To Write Love on Her Arms? This week they have been working to raise $85,000 toward the cost of treatment and recovery for those who need it. One of the counselors investing in that effort is mine. The work is real, and it saves lives.
Join the conversation. Tell someone your story. Keep living.