By Brad Hearst
Within the last week I have seen suicide wrap its horrid grasp around the lives of those I love. It was the second straight impact it has had on my own life. After being struck with the loss of my brother less than four years ago it feels only slightly different this time around. Watching those I care about most feel the same pain I have battled and start their grief process is a voyage I hoped to never experience. One other glaring truth came to surface in my most recent experience. Everyone loves to label suicide a mental health disorder.
I’m sure you are thinking that’s because it is.
I’d challenge that by asking is it always?
A majority of the time I believe it to be a mental health disorder directly connected to a fight with depression, bipolarism, schizophrenia, etc. When I say majority, I mean 75 to 80 percent of the time. That other 20 to 25 percent I’d say it isn’t. We become so wrapped up in avoiding our guilt, anger and frustration that we want to slap a label on it to divert the reality of the situation.
Isn’t it possible that life is just plain hard and gets the best of us sometimes?
Despite pharmaceutical companies throwing ample amount of money into marketing drugs that counteract struggles with mental health we see the number of suicides rise year over year. Hundreds of prevention and awareness organizations exist throughout the country that fight to encourage those in need of help to seek it out, yet the number rises. People such as myself speak out about the impact of suicide on those left behind to emphasize the devastation it creates but the numbers continue to rise.
There are cases each year where the person who passed away had no known mental health condition. They had never spoken to a therapist or received any treatment or medication. They were completely healthy by all accounts. Yet they still chose to take their own life.
Perhaps they fought with mental health and should have sought out treatment. It is also completely acceptable to believe that life’s stress became to heavy to carry. The pressure compounding down could undoubtedly cause someone to take their own life. It doesn’t require a degree in counseling to identify that.
Look at today’s students as our first example. Bullying has become an issue plaguing our schools. It isn’t something new but just recently the devastation it can cause is being debated. The relentless pressure combined with underdeveloped coping skills has pushed children to take their own lives. Students fluctuating from elementary school through college age have all been recorded to have passed away by suicide because of bullying. The strain of peer pressure led children to this point whether directly or indirectly. It is an example of how that 20 to 25 percent could be composed.
An individual who is the head of household, provides the main source of income, feels the pressure of raising children. On top of that taking care of their spouse stacked with the stresses of a career passes away by suicide. Naturally we turn to mental health as the reason why they turned to suicide as the way out. It isn’t wrong to do so but perhaps it is something different. That snap decision could have just been the result of the wave of pressure coming over them and poor timing. A dreadful choice that came from the overwhelming tensions of life created a rapid decision that now leaves a family to pick up the shards. Questions of why incessantly lingering that will never be answered cloud their days.
Finally, everyday people around the world are diagnosed with a terminal illness. The cost of fighting for your life has the potential to put your family so far in debt that bankruptcy is the only option at the very end. To add to the strain your family must watch as your health progressively slips. You thus decide to go the route of assisted suicide. It is your choice and yours alone. Of course, you discussed it with your loved ones but at the end of the day you are the only one to make that choice. You want your children to remember a strong parent. You want your spouse to reminisce on both your external and internal beauty. For those reasons you have arrived at your decision. This wasn’t a mental health issue, this is you picking the path you want for you and your loved ones.
These are just a few examples of how suicide isn’t always a mental health condition. Nearly 45,000 people pass away by suicide each year. If we were only able to save 10 percent of them we would have 4,500 love ones back in our lives each year. 4,500 mothers to raise their daughters to be strong, independent women. 4,500 fathers to help teach their sons that it’s okay to be respectful and confident. 4,500 lives that have the potential to change the course of history.
Isn’t that 10 percent worth a change of perspective?