10 September 2014

LET'S TALK ABOUT SUICIDE | Guest Post for World Suicide Prevention Day

"Take a seat, this conversation is about to begin...straight, simple, yet deeply reaching."-Editor's note

Suicide—the ‘S’ word no one wants to talk about; simply defined as the act of killing yourself because you do not want to continue living. But there is nothing simple about it. Many people around the word go quiet when the ‘S’ word comes up in conversation. What don’t they want to talk about or listen to? What is the truth about the ‘contagion effect’ that talking about suicide is supposed to bring on?

Suicide has hit closer to home for me than I could ever imagine. Within a couple of years, a close friend, friends of my daughter, my daughter and then friends, family and relatives of people I knew. I did get a chance to ask someone close to me how it was in the darkest moments. I wanted to know how the darkness engulfed the emotions. If a person thought about what life would be like without them in it. What it would be like for the ones that cared about them. What I found out was that even though the person knew how much he/she would be hurting others with the ‘what if’s’ and the ‘I should have ….’, it was the overwhelming need to end the internal hurting that takes over. The impulsive moment that can’t be turned back. 

What causes suicide? There is no easy answer. How deep can depression go? How does the dark cloud of life become so thick for some? It really doesn’t matter where you live or how old you are. Depression and suicide can happen anywhere. What is it that needs to change so that lives won’t be lost? One of the answers may be proper identification and supports are mandatory.

Death by suicide is not generally reported in mainstream media due to the fear of suicide contagion. But let’s think of the opportunities to bring the discussion to the forefront in a positive manner. It is true that suicide can’t be talked about by everyone for personal reasons known only to those involved. In the 23 months since my daughter’s death, I have met others who openly talk about suicide and those that still find it emotional to talk about after a loss of many years. My soapbox stance is to let those who can talk about it speak out. Everyone is special, different as individuals.

I use the snowflake as an example of how precious, unique and individual all of our children are. A snowflake is one of a kind; there are no two snowflakes that are the same. Our children, too, are one of a kind; no two are the same. A snowflake is brilliant and beautiful, as are each of our children. And, sadly, they are very fragile. No matter how tough and strong our modern children appear, or how much they know about technology, they are still children and extremely fragile.

Even as teens, when they want to be fully independent, they need a hug, our tenderness and a safe place to land. As parents, that is our job, although when we get busy or are directing our attention to the hundreds of things we have to handle every day, we forget how much the little things mean to them, and to us. Before Amanda died, she surprised me one day by asking me why I didn’t call her ‘Princess Snowflake’ all the time. I didn’t realize that this was something that she enjoyed being called. Her note to me before she took her life included her signature of ‘Princess Snowflake’. It was the last thing she wrote.

There are individuals out there who are suicide survivors who want to share their stories. These would be stories about their journeys into the dark depression state of mind and then hopefully their story of recovery. Other suicide survivors include those who have lost loved ones to suicide. When survivors are able to share their story, they are on their journeys of recovery.
Sadly, suicide is the second leading cause of death among our youths. It is time to continue talking more openly about mental health and suicide. It will not go away on its own. Because statistics of death by this means is keep quiet, no one really knows the extent how many people take their own life. It doesn’t have to glamorized. It needs to be talked about in terms of awareness and prevention. Schools need to talk about it more. Those working in the front lines with our youth need to know how to identify, assess and support. The conversations need to keep going in order to promote prevention and solutions. Too many people turn away from the topic due to their own discomfort. That is understandable. But in order for the statistics to decrease, there is a high need for education and awareness in addition to preventions and resources. We cannot accomplish any of it without open discussions.

At the same time, we need to make sure that there are ongoing connections among people. That social emotional learning includes connecting with others. That one should not be afraid to talk to others about what they are feeling with fear of stigma or ridicule. Human connections are so important in life. The talking, the laughter, the sympathetic ear, open dialogue and ongoing communication. The key is having openness and to make sure that the connections occur at all levels so that everyone feels safe, connected and trusted. This pertains to both youth and adults in our communities. Families need to talk more around their dinner tables which is sometimes forgotten due to busy daily lives. Also, developing strong social emotional connections at an early age is beneficial for positive wellness. When introduced at a young age, the skills continue through the years.

Carol Todd is the founder of the The Amanda Todd Legacy Society, a non-profit that was created to help youth wherever they are, supplying resources and assistance for anti-bullying initiatives, mental health research and cyber safety. She is a global advocate increasing awareness of bullying in all forms and mental health issues in youths and sharing the story of her daughter, Amanda who took her own life after her never ending struggle as a victim of cyber bullying, exploitation and relentless bullying in her everyday life.
Amanda started a conversation regarding cyber bullying and mental health issues, and brought to the world’s attention the serious consequences that can result from such serious issues. Carol has made it her ambition to continue the conversation and not let it end until changes are finally made. Amanda had a dream of helping kids stay strong, and through Carol’s efforts in creating The Amanda Todd Legacy Society this dream has become a reality.

Carol believes in working hard for a change, and has become a true example of the unwavering human spirit though her fight to end bullying and the stigma regarding mental health in youth.

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