So, here's what's on my mind.
It's coming up on the one year anniversary of my brother's suicide.
Yes I have mentioned his passing in many of my blog posts in the past year. I have no problem talking about it and sharing my experience because I think it's of value to most people. We need to talk about it more because it's the giant pink elephant in the living room.
This past year I met a remarkable young man. He travels the world helping other people achieve their goals and live their dreams. He begins his presentation by telling the audience how he systematically practiced his own death. He didn't want to make a mistake, he didn't want to live through it. He told us he would drive at top speeds along one of the most secluded highways in Vancouver and stop himself just before he was to hit the tree he had chosen to end his life. On the scheduled night, he broke down in tears and stopped the car before it hit the tree. No one in his family knew that he had been practicing and that he had made the decision to end his life until he began sharing his experience with audiences. He turned his life around and made the decision to use his experience to help others realize that life is worth living.
I've met many people who have also experienced suicide in their families this year. I feel like there is always a sense of relief that they can open up and talk about their experience, their feelings and their fears with someone who understands them.
When my brother died, I knew his death would change me. And it has.
My brother was loving and giving in life. He always wore a big smile and was eager to lend a hand no matter the circumstances. His life was not wasted. It bothers me when people say that about victims of suicide. And I use the word victim because they are, they are victims of a society that does not understand and accept who they are. Truth be told I didn't always accept my brother, I always thought his behaviours were manageable and that he should "suck it up".
What I knew about him is that his emotions knew no boundaries. When he was up, he was sky high. When he was down, he couldn't get any lower if he tried.
This was his mental illness. With someone who is suicidal, every little "negative" incident sends them into thoughts of ending their life. Some people are consumed with suicidal thoughts no matter what is happening in their life. They can't escape it and they don't know how to ask for help because they fear they will be locked away.
And it's not just those that complete suicide that suffer. The families suffer as well. There is no other loss that compares to a suicide. People will talk to the families of cancer patients and heart attack victims. But people have a hard time talking about loss by suicide. There is a stigma attached to suicide and it is felt by the families.
There is also the feelings of blame, shame and guilt that come along with a suicide. Could I have done something? I should have known? I should have gotten him help? Where did I go wrong? We are accepting responsibility for our loved ones decision. Something we really can't do because most of the time we have no idea what is happening.
Sometimes our guilt turns into anger, at everything and everyone. We don't recognize that it is our very own guilt that is fueling our destructive emotions.
It takes a long time to get past the "what if's". We hang on to our loved one's memory tightly hoping that they will come back to us and that this is all just a terrible nightmare.
Suicide is sad and unnecessary. No one should feel so helpless, alone and out of options in this life.
In Canada during 2001, 3,692 people completed suicide. In my opinion that is 3,692 people too many! That means 3,692 didn't know where to turn for help, didn't know that mental illness is NOT a death sentence, didn't know that there are simple treatments to help them overcome what ails them. 3,692 people in Canada alone that were lost.
In my opinion the only way to begin affecting change is by increasing our level of comfort as individuals and as a society in acknowledging the issue of mental illness and suicide. We need to make a decision to embrace this topic, we've become comfortable talking to our children about pre-marital sex, we need to become comfortable talking to them about mental health.