I recently caught up on some podcasts and came across this idea from game designer and author Jane McGonigal. During an interview on People I (Mostly) Admire, she and Steven Levitt talked more about the idea, but in the most simplistic terms, the idea is this: When you start a conversation, ask someone how their…
When Laura talks about the reactions she’s afraid of getting she is 100% correct. A big part of why I hesitate often to tell people when I’m struggling, feeling incredibly anxious, depressed, or just mentally out of sorts is because I absolutely do not want to hear about how many other people are struggling worse. I already know there are a lot of people struggling. People who don’t have the resources I do, don’t have the support I do, with poor physical health issues or being a part of an underprivileged group, etc. I know, and I understand that I am privileged to have the things that I do and the tools to try and take care of myself that others do not.
And yet, my struggles are still struggles. If I am telling you about them it’s because I need someone to know. I need to be heard. I need to explain what is happening in my own head to someone who will listen to me. I am not negating anyone else’s struggle by talking about my own. Please understand when I, or someone else you know, comes to you and tells you that they are struggling with our mental health, it has likely taken all of our energy just to gather up the courage to tell anyone, so when you deflect like this it’s devastating to us. We carry these heavy, heavy, burdens with us every single day of our lives and we simply need someone to recognize them and maybe help us a little bit every now and again.
We could also talk about abuse here too, and all the ways our stories all invalidated. How many of these have you heard from folks who find out about the abuse you dealt with as a child, or even as an adult:
“You were young, you’ll get over it” (Or you don’t remember it that well)
“Are you sure it was abuse?”
“I can’t imagine (abuser) doing that”
“Why didn’t you just leave?”
“How could you have let that happen?”
We need each other now, as always. We need our community. We need our connections. We need to know that we are not alone in this. So, let me, in the midst of my own exhaustion, do this one thing. If you’re feeling hopeless, angry, anxious, depressed, etc. because of the state of the world, or the state of your job, the losses you’ve suffered, the issues you are fighting for, the struggle to hang on to hope, you are not alone. I am with you. I see you. I share your exhaustion, frustration, anger, and your need for rest. Whether we’ve talked about this personally, or if you’re simply holding this all in and trying to keep it together, I see you. I’m with you. We are together in this, and we should share the little bits of hope with each other. They may be hard to see, but the more of us who are dedicated to looking for them, and sharing them, the more of it we’ll draw strength from.
It was the stories. It was all of those people doing this in memory of someone they lost. Or, like me, in memory of the fact that we are still here instead of leaving others to tell our stories. In our day to day lives, it’s too easy to forget how many people are impacted by suicide each and every year across the country, and the world. The further in time I get away from that time in my own life, the easier it can be to put it behind me and forget about it. But, that is something I never want to do. As painful as it is, I want to remember what it was like to no longer want to be alive. When someone is in that place, I want to be able to say, “I’ve been where you are”, to recall all of the details, and be able to sit and understand. Because that is how we save people. Not by talking in hushed tones about depression, or mental illness, but by sharing the stories of people who survived and healed, and of those we’ve lost.
Let’s face it, if you spend much time considering those losses, and listening to those stories, it is impossible to walk away without realizing that we have lost a devastating number of people to this disease. Many more than some of the diseases we all gladly talk openly about every day. Yet somehow, maybe because we don’t understand it, or are afraid of it, we keep silent. After all, it might make someone uncomfortable. Even I have, at times, kept the details to myself in fear of making other people uncomfortable, or risk having them worry about me. The more I read and heard these stories though, the more I realized that I needed to share my story, if only so that anyone who reads it would know, and maybe even understand a little bit, what it’s like to be so far down into the darkness of depression, that you don’t want to live any longer. So, with that said, let me share my experience with you, now that it’s been some 25 years, and maybe now people won’t worry so much about me. (Warning, this is about to get dark, and we will talk a bit about suicide, though I will keep those exact details out)
Since it’s Pride Month, I’ve seen a few references on social media to the higher rates of suicide of LGBTQ youth. I’ve also seen a number of explanations for it, and things that you could do to help, but I wanted to share this quote from the Inside Mental Health podcast, where the host, Gabe Howard, was interviewing Dr. Amy Green, from the Trevor Project, because it really cuts to the chase with data, and facts.
When we look at that, the data is striking. One of our data findings found LGBTQ youth who have at least one accepting adult are 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt. When I say risk factors, rejection is one of the biggest ones on the other side for protective factors, it’s acceptance, its affirmation, its support. It’s so crucial during the adolescence and young adult period.
If you go listen to the whole podcast below, you’ll see that the things that increase the risks for suicide among LGBTQ youth are very much socially based. It’s not that LGBTQ youth have some sort of genetic quirk that makes them more likely to deal with mental health issues, it’s because they are so much more likely to be rejected, and unable to live their authentic lives. That one thing, is something that has an oversized impact on suicide rates for everyone, and happens to LGBTQ kids more often.
So, here’s something you can do that will have a huge affect on the likelihood a LGBTQ kid in your life will be lost to suicide, just accept them. Just allow them to be who they are, and live their life accordingly. That’s it.