The 10th of September has different meanings to different people. For some it is just another day, for others it may be their birthday or a relationship anniversary. For me, this day stands only as World Suicide Prevention Day – a cause that I hold close to my heart.
Fact – over 800,000 take their own lives each year. Fact – every 18 seconds someone attempts to take their own life and every 40 seconds someone succeeds.
Fact – the most recent provisional statistics saw 606 New Zealanders take their own lives showing a yearly increase in numbers.
I’m not here to overwhelm you with facts and figures but with the increasing mental health issues and the increasingly dramatic figures of suicide in New Zealand it’s damn well people started talking about “the problem”.
September is my favorite month of the year. September marks my birthday, the beginning of spring, lambing season and the daffodils that are in full bloom – radiant and vibrant in shades of yellow, orange and cream. But September also brings me sadness every year as it marks the month my eldest brother took his life. I was barely walking when he died. With 21 years between us its no wonder I don’t have the memories I wish so dearly to have. Growing up knowing your sibling should be here, yet isn’t, is a pain not many will understand. Its different from loosing a family member to an illness or an accident, which brings its own grief. From my own personal experience, suicide brings a deeper pain because of the endless questions around “why” and “what if”. Was there something I could have done? Surely he could have found some reason to stay? Didn’t he realise that I would give anything in the world to have had the chance to know him? These questions are my own way of trying to understand despite knowing that I will never know the answers. As time goes on and I grow older, it’s not the big unanswered questions that I find hardest. It more the wondering – wondering things as simple as what his laugh sounded like and how he would wear his hair (the hairdresser within me wants to know). Because as you get older you come to realise that it’s the simple things a person should treasure most in life; such as family and friends, the sand between your toes, daffodils in bloom and a homemade pizza fresh out of the oven.
One thing I truly hate is the stigma that surrounds suicide. With words associated to suicide like “shame”, “weak”, “coward” and “selfish”. Suicide victims are none of these things. They are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, grandchildren, aunties, uncles and cousins who were in pain and are missed and loved every single day. It is easy to be blindsided by our personal emotions – grief makes people do strange things. I now ask you to take a moment to think about what those who have taken their lives were thinking. How sad and lost theses people must feel that they believe the only way to stop hurting is to taking their own life.
Those who are thinking about suicide will often not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted.
They may feel ashamed about how they’re feeling, like they don’t deserve help, or like no-one will be able to help them. People who attempt suicidal often feel like they are alone and that their family and friends would be better off without them. Most people who attempt suicide don’t want to die – they just want their pain to end or can’t see another way out of their situation. Suicide does not end the chances of life getting worse – it eliminates any possibility of it getting better.
I believe technology has had its own impact on the increasing suicide rates. With technology rapidly advancing it is slowly taking over. Now days, people want things to happen quickly and to achieve with minimal effort – you can order a pizza online and watch the timer right till when the pizza arrives at you door. Looking to find love – well isn’t that why tinder was made? You can now even buy groceries online and have them delivered to your door! People are forgetting we are designed to interact with each other. We need each other to create new lives. Babies rely on their parents to survive. These babies grow into children who learn and grown further with the support of their parents. As we grow to teenagers we seek teachers and develop skills that attract the other sex. We create families together. We love together. We grow old together. We experience loss and we cry together. For thousands of years humans have relied on and supported each other. Yet as we further advances in technology we begin to sit in silence, watching our small screens. We end up missing important moments, special moments with loved ones and the beautiful things that surround us everyday. Its time for us to start interacting and being kind to each other again. Take a sleeve out of our grandparents books and put the screens down. Because you don’t realise what you could be missing.
“Take a minute – change a life”. Take a moment to think about the pain and suffering felt by every person who has felt the impact of suicide. “Are you ok?” – ask yourself this simple question and then take time to notice what is going on in your friends, family and colleagues lives. Has anything changed? Do they not seem themselves lately? Has something big happened that they may not be coping? If you or someone you care about cannot answer this simple question take the time to have a conversation. Support those you love. Relearn how to interact with each other. Do simple tasks like smiling at a stranger in the street – you have no idea how much that can mean to those who feel lonely. It may be the first sign of simple human kindness they have experienced in awhile. Make time for those you love – walk through a garden and see the daffodils or go to the beach and remind yourself how the sand feels between your toes. Make time for life because life is far too short. Rather than send that nasty text or Facebook message – stop and think – how would you live with yourself if that message is the last straw for that person; the message that sets them over the edge. Make time for kindness – because unbelievably kindness is one of the only things left in this technology-focused world that is free. Its time to rise awareness not stigma. Don’t let our loved ones suffer in silence – because you sure will miss them once they’re gone!
To anyone reading this who may be considering suicide – don’t give up. Keep up the fight. You are the only one who has the power to say “This is not how my story will end”. You matter and you have a purpose – the struggle today is giving you the strength for tomorrow. The world is a better place with you in it. Your story isn’t over.
Written by Kylie Hough
Need to talk?
Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counselor
- Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
- Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Healthline – 0800 611 116
- Samaritans – 0800 726 666