Suicide And Generation X
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Prior to this year, this particular designation for September might have come and went with little recognition or notice by myself. This year, it hit me like a ton of bricks. This past Christmas morning 2015 I lost a dear cousin to suicide. I have also since known of a number of close friends who have also suffered their own personal bouts of loss through loved ones who died by suicide as well. I can not tell if the loss of my cousin has just made me more aware of suicide, or if there is a noticeably sharp increase of loss amongst my peers in Generation X, but it feels like the latter may, unfortunately, be the case. Since my cousin’s passing, I have personally been aware of 3 other connections who have been dealt a tragic loss by suicide as well. In less than one year the loss of precious lives to suicide within my circle of family and friends have been staggering.
An Awakening To Suicide Prevention Awareness
There has to be some sort of awakening amongst my peers to suicide prevention awareness. We must be compelled to start speaking of wellness and mental health in frank terms out in the open. This is not a discussion to be held behind a closed bedroom door anymore. This is truly life or death, hope or disillusionment, and the discussion needs to be had early and out loud. Suicide is jarring and horrific. Our innate response to the topic is to recoil, hush up, and pray to God it never directly affects our own families. We feel genuine empathy for those going through tough times, but we can also be hesitant to approach our friends and loved ones nearing a crisis. We choke back words out of fear of offending or saying the wrong thing, but the silence has now become the gravest offense. The Mighty recently wrote a piece that highlights just how uncomfortable the general public still is with suicide, but rightfully points out how we must fight through this unease. The topic of suicide is tough and a conversation surrounding it can be discomforting, but inaction and disquiet can no longer get in the way of awareness and prevention.
We have to actively take care of each other no matter how loose or tight the connection is with those surrounding us. Your casual relationships may contain just enough safe distance from the intimacy with others that someone would feel safe in confiding some heavy burdens of life to you. Your lifelong friendships may be the closest and most supportive bond someone has in their life, so you might supplant their nuclear family as the steadiest source of comfort and love. I will never forget a lady in front of me in line at a supermarket checkout, just turning and seemingly having a breakdown directly to me. She turned to me, slowly and softly spoke of her awful day, and wept. I felt I did my best to comfort her in that moment, but if I had the life experience then that I do now, my engagement and follow through with her would have been on a much more comprehensive level.
This is not a pollyannaish rallying cry for the singing of kumbaya or sharing of inspirational quotes online. This is a plea for my peers to awaken to the dire state of our collective wellness as a bonded generation. We have to consciously work at actively loving and looking out for each other. It has to be done with direct and real discourse. Loving and supportive, but direct and frank as well. We owe each other the respect of direct talk and even more importantly attentive listening.
The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention is a remarkable resource for tools and help in spreading awareness for suicide prevention. They have everything from fundraising walks, prevention programs for schools, to certified training programs for prevention. Tax deductible donations can also be made to support their comprehensive efforts for prevention and spreading awareness.
Seek More Depth And Meaning With Each Other
Since the loss of my cousin, I have made a conscious decision to take a more active role in the caring of the health and happiness of my family and friends. I try to make it a point to discuss mental wellness and physical fitness with my friends, whenever a moment arises that is right. I find that these topics are always in the foreground of my peer’s minds as well, and the conversations always end up being fruitful and beneficial on both ends of the talk. Life is hard. Trying to stay physically fit and reaching some level of happiness is a daily struggle. It can often feel like a chore. I have a friend that I graduated high school with. We were always good buds, but in the past few years, in particular, we have grown closer. We are both family men trying to work as hard as possible to achieve success personally and provide for our families. We live in separate states but talk constantly. This past year we have grown even closer and our conversations on the phone have delved deeper into our desires to be happy and experience meaning and purpose in life. We have become massive support systems for each other and there is no depth or topic of conversation that is off limits. A few years ago neither he nor I would have been able or willing to have such discussions about fear, sadness, or failure. Thankfully, both of our sets of insecurities have since been fully disclosed to each other, which leads to incredibly powerful and inspiring conversation amongst friends.
I encourage everyone to push your relationships to a deeper and more challenging level. Push each other and hold each other accountable for seeking and wanting more out of life. We are all walking on this earth with the same sets of anxieties, challenges, and hurts, so we can all be incredible peer to peer resources for each other. Men especially, seem to have a tough time sharing feelings of hurt and insecurity with friends, but we all need to let go of that macho ridiculousness today. False bravado and bluster never garnered anything of note for anyone, but simply listening to a friend or disclosing your own sadness about life, has the potential to spark real change. Men need to reject outright the confining and reductive stereotype of being strong and silent. Reject it through your openness and ability to be vulnerable to your peers. Dr. Brene Brown gave a Ted Talk on the power of vulnerability, which has since inspired me to try and lean into the discomfort of life, as she brilliantly prescribes us all to do.
We are all that we got for each other, but I say that with hope and comfort, because my peers in Generation X are actively seeking, working, and fighting for a better life. We must pick our heads up from our daily grind, though, to take a look around and take notice of our family and friends. Make a choice to take an active role in all the lives you touch each and every day.
If you or anyone you know is in the midst of a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
If someone confides in you that they are feeling suicidal, the Speaking of Suicide site put together a comprehensive list of things to try and avoid saying in response. Sometimes the things we do not say can be just a critical as the comfort we give.
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