Mental Health

Suicide: Talk About It, Talk About It, Talk About It

February 24, 2015

Suicide: Talk About It, Talk About It, Talk About It - Sweet and Savoring Did anyone else watch the Academy Awards on Sunday night? I admit that I used to be a much bigger film fan that I am now, and I only half-watched the show while doing other things. But some things did grab my attention: Patricia Arquette’s cry for equal wages, the lackluster performance by Neil Patrick Harris as host, the In Memoriam montage featuring Robin Williams, who succumbed to his mental illness and committed suicide last August.  If you include Robin, the Oscars telecast had three mentions of suicide, which is a heck of a lot for a subject most of us wince at and immediately change the subject. The other two mentions were not as subtle: filmmaker Dana Perry won in the Documentary Short category for Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, and in her acceptance speech she candidly talked about her son, who took his own life when he was 15. 

Ms. Perry also made a film about her deceased son called Boy, Interrupted. Here’s what she had to say when it was released in 2009:

This is a movie one wishes one did not have to make. Maybe it will break down walls, and stigmas about talking openly about mental illness, to free people to do so without shame. The film asks a lot of questions in a public fashion and stirs up discussion about why we as a society are ashamed about mental illness. Educating people is a real challenge. And, education and treatment is the only suicide prevention. Let’s get the word out.

Lastly, Best Adapted Screenplay winner Graham Moore (for The Imitation Game) talked candidly about his own teenage suicide attempt, encouraging others that no matter what they think, they do fit in:

When I was 16 years old I tried to kill myself, because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here. And so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: Yes you do. I promise you do.

How extraordinary hear about not only mental illness, but suicide, from a Hollywood stage where tens of millions of people are watching. We’ve come so far as a society when it comes to how we treat mental illness, but we haven’t come far enough. We haven’t come far enough when there are still people who feel like they have no hope and relatives of suicide victims who feel that they can’t talk about it.

Yesterday, during some idle Facebook surfing, I stumbled on some unexpected and unwelcome news. A former friend from my early twenties committed suicide last summer. Heather was just shy of her 34th birthday and constantly battled both mental illness and chronic Lyme disease. She was a poet, violinist, human rights advocate, and Lyme disease awareness activist. This death is what brings suicide home for me. I have known people who succeeded in taking their lives, as well as those who attempted to, but this was someone who was a part of my history. This is someone I knew for several years, who I went to Ani DiFranco and Indigo Girls concerts with, who I marched against police brutality with, whose apartment in Brooklyn I used as a crash pad, who I shared clothes with and laughed endlessly.

Despite the fact that I hadn’t talked to Heather in years, the news blindsided and saddened me. I had to keep reminding myself as I tried to fall asleep last night, and again this morning, Heather’s dead, as if I had merely dreamed it. This didn’t have to happen.

Robin Williams, Dana Perry’s son, transgender Ohio teen Leelah Alcorn, and my old friend Heather all turned to suicide because they felt desperate and hopeless. This is the most absolute form of desperation, the most damaging solution that they could think of. They all felt that there was no better option. We need to talk about mental illness as something that is just as important to treat as any physical illness. 

Suicide: Talk About It, Talk About It, Talk About It - Sweet and Savoring If someone in your life is struggling emotionally, tell them that you love and accept them unconditionally. Tell them you are available to listen whenever they want to talk. Validate their feelings. Offer to drive them to mental health appointments or support groups. Give them a hug, offer them your dog for the afternoon, take them to see a movie. We’ve all been touched by mental illness and suicide in some way. I write this because I want to eradicate stigma and let everyone know that it’s okay to talk about it and it’s okay to get help. It’s okay to feel broken. But please know that you are not going to feel broken forever.

What you can do: 1. Join the conversation! Please share your experience with mental illness and/or suicide in the comments section, if you feel called to. Let’s start a conversation and support each other. 2. Check out the suicide-related links below and find out how you can get involved or seek help for yourself. 3. Share this post! Pin it, tweet it, stumble it, share it on Facebook or Google Plus or whatever your social media outlet of choice is. Share any of the links that I’ve shared. Tell someone that you love them today.



Always remember that beautiful experiences and massive amounts of love are on their way. If you are able to feel pain and sadness this profoundly, more than most people can ever imagine, remind yourself that you can feel happiness and joy and love this profoundly as well, and that’s our little reward as depressed people. We feel things harder than other people do, and when those things are negative they are complete and total torture. But while we feel pain harder than other people have to, we feel beauty and joy and love harder than anyone else gets to, and that’s the victory that’s waiting on the other side of this pain for you. Hang on. Be tough. Better times are coming. Beautiful things and loving people are already out there, and when this cloud passes you get to experience them all so, so deeply.   –Chris Gethard

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  • Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine February 24, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    It’s a topic…like so many that we need to talk about and remove the stigma from! Thanks for posting this my friend! XOXO

    • Christy March 6, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      You’re quite welcome, Rebecca. I’m glad to see more and more people talking about mental illness in the media!

  • Rea February 24, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    I think everybody needs to read this. Sorry to hear about your friend. I don’t know of anyone close to me who committed suicide. I hear friends of friends a lot. There was one time when a guy jumped from his office building and passed away after his fall. The building was very near the building I’m working in. Before he committed suicide, he posted something on Facebook that whatever he’s gonna be doing next is because of his ex girlfriend who cheated on him.. and nobody was able to stop him. Just like that, his life was gone.

    I truly believe that a community helps. Education about early warning signs and how to help or save a life can be a big help. An open mind is also crucial. It’s important that people don’t get judgmental of what someone is going through. Definitely sharing this!
    Rea recently posted…#BlissfulSnapshots: CompassionMy Profile

    • Christy March 6, 2015 at 10:37 pm

      Thanks for your words, for sharing, for your support, Rea! I really appreciate it. You’re right, reserving judgement, community, and education are all so important for anyone suffering from mental illness or working to raise awareness. Suicide is the most tragic thing. I hope this is the last time I find out someone I know has lost this much hope.

  • Natalia February 25, 2015 at 3:17 am

    I am so sorry to hear about your friend. Thank you for sharing such an important post. I know people who have been touched by suicide – be it loved ones they have lost to it, or having narrowly escaped a suicide attempt themselves. We need to keep talking to remove the stigma and make people feel less alone. Much love to you lady xo

    • Christy March 6, 2015 at 10:41 pm

      Thank you, Natalia. It feels like such an ‘ugly’, taboo subject but that’s the very reason we *do* need to talk about suicide.

  • Kelly February 25, 2015 at 6:44 am

    I am so sorry about your friend. This is such a brave, important conversation. Enough with the stigma attached to mental illness and reaching out. We would reach out if we need physical help; why not emotional help? Enough is enough.
    Kelly recently posted…Feel Sexy, Be SexyMy Profile

    • Christy March 6, 2015 at 10:43 pm

      Exactly! What even created that big divide between physical health and mental help? Thank you for your kind words, Kelly.

  • Rabia @TheLiebers February 25, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    I love to hear famous people speak as if they are actual people with real-life difficulties. I think we forget that about them. And I’m glad they put a bit of a spotlight on mental illness and suicide. There should be as much shame in having a mental illness as there is in having cancer. In other words: NONE! Thank you for these resources!

    • Christy March 6, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      We do forget that about celebrities (maybe that’s why the ‘Stars: They’re Just Like Us!’ column exists in US Weekly? Um not that I read that…), which is part of why I look forward to acceptance speeches like that- it gives us a chance to hear what the stars themselves have to say, with millions of people watching. That makes it even more powerful when someone chooses to talk about social justice, or mental illness, or solidarity, etc.
      Thanks for your comment, Rabia. Have a good weekend!

  • P.J. March 10, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I have always tried to be somebody who is available to talk to friends and such when needed. It’s a topic that needs to be out there. It’s a sad thing, for sure. I’ve dealt with it twice during my lifetime. I knew both people well enough, but one was closer to me than the other. That was more than 20 years ago and I still think about it (I had talked to that person hours before it happened).

    There needs to be a lot of education on this. Whatever needs to be done, it has to happen. It gets harder and harder to read about kids in their early teens taking their own lives and then it goes back to bullying or something along those lines. Things have changed in the last 20-25 years and this has become a viable option for people… so you are very right about this. It needs to be talked about. And any signs need to be taken seriously.

    A few years ago, I went through a long and extended bout of unemployment. I wasn’t happy. I hid at times and kind of kept to myself. It’s how I coped with things. But many of my friends were concerned. Though this thought never crossed my mind, I had people who wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting there. At the time, I almost found it offensive. That is until I thought about it and realized they were making sure I was OK and not going to do something drastic.

    So talk to people. Make sure they are doing OK. Ask about their lives. Look for the signs. There’s always something — anything — to live for. Sometimes people need to see that and need the help to do so.

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