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Don’t Give up

Don’t Give up

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicide, please dial 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255.

Help is available 24/7.

I was in 6th grade when I first understood the severity of depression and suicide, and it seemed like every year someone else I knew was affected in some way by mental illness. I felt too young, so incapable, and so at a loss for answers—both for myself and for them.

It turns out 6th grade isn’t “too young” to be faced with this topic and the hardship that comes with it. The effects of suicide are everywhere and steadily growing. Especially in regard to social media, the topic almost seems to be trending. But this “trend” in awareness is not leading to a downward trend in the actual suicide rate. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the United States for ages 10-34.

If you weren’t already aware, this month is National Suicide Prevention Month, a month in which we can remind ourselves of what’s important and focus our attention on an issue that may slip through our notice otherwise. But one month is not enough to really create change in a world plagued by suicide, depression, and mental illness. What can we do to stay on a trajectory of awareness that leads to change beyond one month of the year?

You’ve surely seen the posts on social media and links to websites with all the suicide statistics, warning signs, tips in how to handle difficult situations. These are incredibly important and helpful as we consider how to best care for people affected by suicide. But in the next few months, you might forget the “Top 10 Warning Signs” or another list of helpful tips. What I want to challenge you toward is authenticity. One of the greatest gifts we can give another person is ourselves. Being one that truly seeks to know another person, to allow ourselves to be known, and to show up with courage and vulnerability, even when the space we’re entering into is big and dark and scary and we feel like a small child as we enter. This might be especially nerve-wracking if you aren’t sure you have anything to offer. If you’re struggling yourself with believing that you have worth or something to offer your friends in pain, hear me when I say, you do.

While I’ve surely grown in my understanding of people and how to respond to these issues since being a middle schooler, I’m not sure I’ll ever completely be rid of that feeling, “I am too young for this.” Because no matter our age or expertise, these ideas are heavy, and there is always more to learn in both awareness and practical steps. But the most helpful thing I’ve learned (so far) is to get comfortable with the discomfort. To learn to be okay with not always knowing the right answers, not having control, not being able to fix it all. So much of what’s important as a counselor or a friend is having the courage to be authentic and willing to sit with someone in their pain. To say, “It’s okay to not be okay.” If that is all you can do, you’re doing a great job, my friend.


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