I don’t know when I first fully grasped what it meant to say “I want to kill myself”. I first heard my friend make that statement in the sixth grade. I knew that I had to tell someone to get him help, and I did, but all I knew was it was so death would be avoided. I didn’t realize the mental implications that came with being suicidal.
Fast forward two years later. One morning in math class, I was wondering where my best friend was. Our teacher then stood in front of the class with tears in her eyes as she reminded us of the support systems we have. I heard from others of how her parents had called an ambulance, of how she had taken a bottle of pills in an attempt to take her life. All I remember thinking was, “How could I have missed the signs? How could I have let this happen to my best friend?” This was the first time my eyes opened up to the signs of suicide and the need to be aware of them.
A year and a half ago, suicide hit the closest to home. My youngest sister was battling bullying, the end of her first relationship after three years of heartache and depression. I’ll never forget neither the look in her eyes after overdosing on pills, nor the sound of hospital machines as we waited for the side effects of the pills to pass. I almost lost my sister because she had lost hope. My sister is a testament that life does get better. There are setbacks, but there is progress—her pulling pieces of her life together, being surrounded by loved ones, finding a healthy relationship, and staying busy.
My experiences have taught me that mental health illnesses are a part of everyday life. They don’t just strike you. Most of the time, they aren’t staring you straight in the face. It’s the little things and the big things that add up and lead to that feeling of loneliness and as if life is spinning out of your control. Being supportive isn’t as easy as telling someone to “calm down” or to think it’s just a bump in the road that they’ll get over. Life is hard, and it’s a journey. I thank God every single day that I haven’t lost my loved ones to suicide. I remember the fragility of life and how despite what we may see on the surface, all of us—all of us are human beings and just want to be loved and happy.
Between all my loved ones, a common factor was the importance of resources. School counselors and psychiatrists were safety nets to turn to for help and who I am forever grateful for. They are a reminder that you are not alone. As vital as response and support resources are, prevention measures could have played a role in stopping them and others from getting to a point of hopelessness. I stress the importance of collectivist communities and suicidal awareness training. As suicide is a leading cause of death among young adults, join us, HSPA, in the movement to educate and unite our community on mental illnesses and suicide prevention.
Thank you to Nesley Bravo for sharing her story through the Speak Up Project.