I never thought suicide could affect me, it only happened in movies and on TV, or to just anyone else, not me, right? But one day, I went to sleep and when I woke up the next morning, my father was gone. I never saw him again. After a month of being missing, he was found and he was classed as a suicide victim.
I’ve spent four years now coming to terms with his death. I have never been angry at him and I have never tried to pinpoint blame to any particular person. It is not one individual’s fault – not even the victim as they just want to end the pain. Though, when it comes to a sudden death, where you don’t even get a letter to say goodbye or explanation of their exact reasons, you do wonder. You want something to explain that part of your life that is now gone, that you were not ready to let go of.
Since his death, I’ve become somewhat of a mental health advocate. I do my best to raise awareness of mental illness, with the hope that I can save a life, to prevent families from going through the nuclear bomb of suicide and also, fight for the ones forgotten or left out of the system. By doing this, I hope I’m giving the best tribute to my father, someone who had also spent so much time supporting others’ mental health and preventing lives from becoming suicides.
One thing I have realised since trying to make a little dent in the stigma is how poor society reacts to suicide. We still assume that it only happens in the media, or that it only happens like 13 Reasons Why when in fact, each attempt is a little different and the fallout is so much more personal. We live in a world where we maybe are a little ignorant to accept that our loved ones, or even ourselves will lose our lives to suicide. We assume that suicide is linear, that it has to happen in a certain way, to certain people. That’s just not the truth.
When you see a celebrity suicide, the world suddenly cares and promises that changes will be made. Each time it lasts for a few days, in which people are still dying and changes have not been made. You see, fighting for mental health and suicide prevention is a 24/7 thing. We all need to work together, one person cannot cure this epidemic – it needs unity and everyone to just open their eyes.
Maybe my dad would still be alive today if there was more support out there and less stigma. If my family, myself, his loved ones and even the professionals were a little more educated – and the stereotypes of masculinity a little less outdated, maybe it would be different. But thinking this way won’t bring my father back, I cannot change the past, but I can change the future.
So, I ask you this, this one simple thing that can save your life, or your friend’s life, your mother’s life or cousin’s; whoever you love. Just listen. Don’t throw around judgment and assumptions or be aggressive about mental health – just listen, really listen. Let your loved ones talk to you, let them know that they are safe and have support, in a world where we are all living fast-paced. We need to remember what’s really important and take a moment to breathe, and help our loved ones breathe too. A moment of your time can become many more years of memories to a person in crisis.
I do not know how to end suicide as a cause of death, maybe it cannot be prevented 100%, but what I do know is that in a world of mass communication, we have forgotten how to actually communicate. Thousands of people around the world are feeling so alone in their battles and their fight, yet, they don’t have to feel this way. We can and should be there for each other – maybe then lives can be saved.