It was not unusual for my cousin to receive a phone call from his childhood friend. But after a long day’s work, conversation in the wee hours of the night was not a priority. But devastation ensued when he finally listened to the voicemail message from his best friend expressing his love and his final decision…
“You are the last person I wanted to talk to you. I’m about to take this cab and jump off this bridge.” And that he did.
I have dealt with moments of deep despondency throughout my lifetime so extreme that I wanted to die. But to my chagrin, I was too cowardly to take my own life, so I placed myself in situations that could possibly lead to my untimely death. Yet still, I lived to tell, anyone willing to listen, about my bouts of depression and confess that suicide is a brave but bad idea. Bad for the broken hearts and souls who are left behind to mourn and grieve. The last text or the last call will haunt memories and replay moments that can’t be restored. Some may never recover from the loss.
On December 13, 2022, the famous and beloved dancer Twitch died of what was ruled a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Social media pundits and bereaved fans ran amok with conspiracy theories. Because how can someone who donned an infectious smile, was happy-go-lucky, and danced pure joy into the lives of many kill himself? He would never…he had everything.
Whether it’s a famed and beloved comedian, celebrity, or the average Joe or Jane, a person who commits suicide leaves a tragic void in the lives of his/her loved ones. A suicide loss is a traumatic experience that leaves the bereaved struggling with complicated grief. Feelings of guilt, and questions such as: could I have done something differently or why didn’t I do something different, go unanswered. These are the questions that linger after suicide, but there is never a definitive answer or reason to substantiate the person’s decision, especially if there isn’t a letter to give some form of reasoning and a sense of closure.
I swear to God I want to just slit my wrists and end this bullshit
Throw the Magnum to my head, threaten to pull shit (Nigga, what the fuck?)
And squeeze until the bed’s completely red (It’s too late for this shit, man)
I’m glad I’m dead, a worthless fuckin’ buddha head
The stress is buildin’ up, I can’t— I can’t believe (Yo, I’m on my way over there, man)
Suicide’s on my fuckin’ mind, I wanna leave
I swear to God I feel like death is fuckin’ callin’ me
–from Suicidal Thoughts by the Notorious B.I.G
“You got food?” I asked a male friend struggling financially.
“No, but I got bullets?” he replied.
I scrambled to the phone after his dark response. He didn’t answer. There’s nothing more distressing than being unable to reach someone in time. I left a message of grave concern and heard from him the following day. Eventually, the worst of his circumstances subsided and he expressed his gratitude, “Thank you for keeping me off the ledge.”
Suicidal thoughts do not always lead to the actual act but the mere thoughts are indicative of the consuming trauma, pain, and hurt that the person is enduring.
During the process of a difficult and unwanted (yet necessary) divorce, I wanted to die. It seemed as if life as I knew it was over. As I walked towards a lake nearby my house, I called the suicide hotline. I had no intention of harming myself, I just wanted to talk to someone new, since I was tired of bleeding on the small circle of support who held me down and lifted me up when I wasn’t able to do so. Ironically, the woman on the other line shared my mother’s name. She was just as loving and nurturing as a mother would be to a daughter who was broken.
On the last day of September 2022, National Suicide Month, a 31-year-old Virginia man called 911 and told dispatchers he was going to commit suicide. While on the phone with the communications center, the man shot himself. By the time the police officers arrived, the man had died.
First responders encounter danger, tragedy, and death on a daily basis. But there is little consideration by the general public on how such trauma affects the psyche of those who serve in that capacity nor are there comprehensive support systems in place that help prevent or help process suicide deaths of first responders. Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation states that, “Exacerbating this situation, the shame and stigma often associated with the suicide of first responders lead to secrecy and silence surrounding the event, preventing appropriate processing of suicides by colleagues of the deceased. It is incumbent upon us to redouble our efforts to end the silence and eradicate the stigma surrounding the mental health of first responders.“
Our nation is in a mental health crisis. According to the World Health Organization, “Plenty of us became more anxious; but for some COVID-19 has sparked or amplified much more serious mental health problems. A great number of people have reported psychological distress and symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress. And there have been worrying signs of more widespread suicidal thoughts and behaviours…”
The COVID-19 pandemic pulled back the veil on the fragility of people’s mental state whether young or old and regardless of racial or gender identity. And while there were plans to recover economically, there was no concrete plan to address the adverse effects of the pandemic on the mental well-being of struggling souls.
I’ve struggled to complete this blog post for a very long time. I am not sure if it was the content, my own personal crisis, or just mere writer’s block that delayed my progress. But I finally made up my mind, to just do it. Maybe it will help someone and even if it doesn’t, I am compelled to believe that it was meant to help me.
It’s okay to not be okay. And even when it seems that there is no one who cares or who would understand, help is available.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or in crisis call 988 for the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.