by Kristen Abell
I was barely thirteen the first time I considered suicide as a solution to my problems. I remember feeling as though there wasn’t another way out – that I couldn’t possibly deal with the pain and hurt and confusion another day. I remember multiple times standing in the street in front of my house – to be fair, a street that was not terribly busy, but I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and at least that way maybe I couldn’t be totally responsible for it.
Within a few years, I had planned and unplanned my death several times. I’m sure I didn’t know the limits of pain as a teenager, but it certainly felt like I did, and it wore me out. Multiple times I was just certain that I could not go on, that death certainly had to be easier than what I was currently facing.
As a resident assistant during my junior year in college – after being on Prozac for several months – one of my residents stood on a bridge over a busy street and threatened to jump. I had been out with friends and came home to police cars around the bridge and at my dorm. I remember talking with the student after police convinced him to come back inside. I made a plan to talk with him the next day – without clear advice on what to do, I still somehow managed to figure out how I could help get him through the night. When I talked to my supervisor later, I remember him saying at one point, “I just don’t get it. What makes a person think that this is a viable option?” I tried to explain to him that it is not so much that we think that it is a viable option – we think that it is the ONLY option. I’m still not sure to this day if he understood.
Two years ago, actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life. When I heard the news, I sobbed. I still tear up thinking about it to this day. Not because I knew the man – although I had always thought he was amazing. I sobbed because if this man, who was loved by so many – whether they were close to him or not – felt that he had no other option, what hope was there for the many of us who had nothing close to that sort of adoration when we felt alone? And I sobbed because I knew, I knew what that felt like. And every time someone I know or know of is killed by suicide, every time, I feel at least a sliver of that pain that they must have felt to succumb.
When friends or family lose someone to suicide and tell me how angry they are at the person, I am constantly trying to explain that it is not the person to be angry at – it is the disease. As sure as cancer kills people, depression and suicidal ideation kill people. People are just as vulnerable to these as they are to physical illnesses. But still we blame the person instead of the disease, and so still people hide their thoughts of taking their lives because we cannot admit that this is not their fault. When will we learn? Who has to lose their lives to this disease before we decide to acknowledge it?
It is time to stomp out the stigma around depression and suicidal ideation and recognize that these kill. And it is time to do what we can to stop it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and/or suicidal ideation, there is help. Check out our Resources page for additional information on how to get help.