This week is National Suicide Prevention Week and today is the peak of it all with World Suicide Awareness Day. I’ve been aware of this week for a little while and have even participated in the To Write Love on her Arms hashtag on Twitter. I didn’t expect to write more about it during the week, for a few reasons, but now, here we are. You’d be shocked how many social awareness posts of mine begin after I swear I’m going to allow people in the midst of it speak louder than myself.
If you don’t know it by now or are a first time reader, I have a lot of experience with suicide in this life. I’ve lost friends and loved ones to suicide, I’ve had many friends struggle with suicidal thoughts and attempts and I myself left school about five years ago after my depression and anxiety got so severe I dealt with suicidal urges. This week means a lot to me as I continue to see friends deal with this issue, but I didn’t want to speak out about it because I feel so far removed from where I was when suicide was an option for me.
Then, this past weekend we said good-bye to my younger sister as she packed up her van and headed off to college. While there’s another sister between us, Cat attends college in our city and she didn’t “go away” to school. Madi, on the other hand, went to a school a few hours away and I can’t lie, sending her out has been more upsetting that I expected it to be for me. Now, Madi is by far the toughest of us sisters(possibly the toughest all together…). My worry, my fears, they aren’t connected to her specifically. I know she’s going to kick butt no matter where she goes and what she does.
But that happening the same week of National Suicide Prevention Week forced me to remember my own college days.
I struggled with depression and anxiety before college; I struggle with them still. At school though, I hit rock bottom for a few reasons. And I am not alone in this-suicide is the third leading cause of death in people ages 15-24 and over 1,000 suicides happen on college campuses a year. This is for the students who are at college right now. It’s for my sisters, all my sisters friends, all the ones who just went away to “better” yourselves and are feeling it.
To the college student thinking of suicide.
I know what you’re going through right now. I truly do. I’ve been there. I know how it feels to be completely lost, to be flailing as you’re drowning in numbness, hopelessness, and heartache. I know how lonely it can feel.
These are supposed to be the “best years of your life” and you don’t feel like that at all. You can log onto Facebook, you can see the Tweets or posts on Instagram: it seems like all your high school friends have found their place in their big new pond. And you just haven’t. Or maybe you have and that still doesn’t change the feeling of helplessness.
I don’t know exactly what you’re doing to help numb the pain right now. Maybe you’re partying more than you should. Maybe you’re withdrawing from your friends and family. Maybe you are trying so hard to silence it by pretending everything is okay that no one has even noticed, or so you think.
I know what it’s like to be in all those places. I understand, so many people do. These best years of your life are not always the best years. But I also don’t want them to be the last years. I want to share with you some things that may help you if you are struggling.
Get out of your room.
I know how easy it is to hole yourself up in there to avoid everyone and anyone. Don’t. Isolation does not help you when you’re dealing with depression.
Find someone to talk to.
College campuses have been trying to be more accessible to those struggling with mental illnesses. Most schools do offer counselors. Take advantage of that!
Tell someone if you are a danger to yourself.
Seriously. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. It’s open 24 hours a day. Can’t “talk” to someone? Here’s an option for texting for support: crisisline.
If you have a plan, go to the emergency room.
Again, I know how scary that is. But what’s even scarier is you not making it through the night. You need to get help when you need it.
And most importantly remember; college is not worth your life.
I’m biased on this one a little bit, but I want you to know two things. First, college is not worth your life. Point blank. I understand how important secondary education can be. I know how hard you probably worked to get there and I know you’re afraid of disappointing people. But they will be a hundred times more upset if you never come back from college than if you need a break or semester off. I know that sounds scary. I know how hard a choice that is to make.
But I also want you to know that it gets better. I remember being so lost in the midst of depression never believing that. But, it does. I’m scared you may read this and think I have forgotten what those nights are like. I haven’t. I kept living for the distant promise of better days and they are here. Yes, it was a battle every step of the way; yes, I had days I didn’t believe it would come. But I held onto that smallest bit of hope and I pray you will too. I hope you choose to keep living and see all the wonderful tomorrows life has in store for you. And some of the not so wonderful tomorrows-life isn’t just peaches now. But I’m here to experience it. And I want you to be too.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please get any help you can. You deserve this life.