Today, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. I was touched to read of the rather candid and vulnerable mention made by TV star Wentworth Miller recently, who, because of hiding the fact that he is gay, has considered suicide more than once over the years. The “Prison Break” star said this weekend, at an event for the Human Rights Campaign,
“Growing up I was a target. Speaking the right way, standing the right way, holding your wrist the right way. Every day was a test and there were a thousand ways to fail, a thousand ways to betray yourself, to not live up to someone else’s standards of what was accepted, of what was normal. … The first time I tried to kill myself I was 15. I waited until my family went away for the weekend and I was alone in the house, and I swallowed a bottle of pills. I don’t remember what happened over the next couple of days, but I’m pretty sure come Monday morning I was on the bus back to school, pretending everything was fine. And when someone asks me if that was a cry for help, I’d say, ‘No.’ You only cry for help if you believe there’s help to cry for. And I didn’t need it, I wanted out.”
Of course, people of all ages and all facets of life fit into the cross section of those who have attempted, successfully or not, taking their own lives. People, all of us, need to be able to talk and be heard. It is such a primal need, such a deep chunk of the foundation that has to be in place for us to build a life and face each day. We have to be heard. It means the rest of us, who are perhaps in better or just different places, MUST do the hearing. If someone can reach out to a family member, friend, teacher, spiritual leader, commanding officer, medical professional, trained hotline volunteer, or stranger anywhere–we have to be there, in the room or the other end of the line. There is always someone you can talk with.
Years ago, in the early days of the AIDS crisis, when I volunteered on an information hotline for AIDS Project Los Angeles, almost every call was of the variety of “Can I get it from kissing? From a doorknob? From a toilet seat? I did this action–was that safe?” with a few crank calls and giggly teens thrown into the mix on those long nights on the phone bank…until one night I had a suicide call. It gutted me emotionally, exhausted everything I had in me to keep the young man talking, eventually joking, while a colleague alerted supervisors. I’ll never know what became of that anonymous caller, but I went to bed late that night knowing that he was going to at least see the next morning, and, I suspect, with no intent of minimizing his fear and pain, he is probably still waking up each morning as, at least that night, he did not have an actual “plan.” He will never know who I am but he honored me with his story and his strength, when the last thing he would have considered himself was strong. He was/is fierce.
Many, however, do have plans, or unplanned extreme actions…and too many are successful who needn’t have gone down that road to its conclusion.
If you need to talk to someone–please do. If you are ever presented with the true honor of listening to someone who needs you to hear them–please do.
Some brilliant resources, doing incredible work in this arena:
Suicide Hotlines (find one in your state/region–calls are toll-free, 24 hours)
From the World Suicide Prevention Day facebook page: Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It is ok to ask some one are they feeling suicidal, it will not put ideas in their head, it will not push them towards suicide. It will show them that there is hope, that some one is there for them, let them know its ok to talk. If you are suicidal please reach out, you are not a burden, you are not worthless, use your voice, fight for the life you deserve. It is not easy but I can tell you it is worth it.