Suicide. It comes up in the news after a celebrity takes their own life. It’s hot on social media for a few weeks, and then it fades back into the realm of taboo topics. It’s as if people think that if it’s not discussed it will disappear, like a vaccine eradicates a deadly virus, it will fade into oblivion.
The brutal truth is that if it is not discussed, if it is not brought into and kept in the spotlight, people will continue to hide their or their family member’s mental illness. They will continue to cover up how their loved one really died. They will continue to feel ashamed or embarrassed by the truth behind an illness they have no control over.
In 2014 my daughter, at the young age of 10, tried to take her own life. She was being bullied at school and that was what tipped her over the edge. We don’t know whether she has a family history of depression, due to being adopted, but we know that we didn’t recognize any of the symptoms at home. We thought her behavior was hormones, or characteristics of her age. She was being raised in a home full of love and attention. She was actively involved in sports. She had plenty of friends.
In my original post, https://livelovecourage.com/2015/09/20/until-the-scars-fade/, I did not state what she had done. She was 11 at the time, and I had already experienced how people would react. I did not want her to be pushed out of her new school. I did not want people to treat her differently. I did not want people to be afraid of her. I did, however, want to create some awareness of the issue.
It is a scary and confusing place to be as a parent, and surely as a child. As it was, shortly after my original post, a student at her new school went home and told their parent about the scars she had. The next day I got a call from the school. It was terrifying. The school was gracious and showed concern. The parent was just worried about how it would affect their child. At the time, I knew exactly what this was. Another parent was afraid of my child. They thought it was “contagious.” Another parent thought that this had something to do with my daughter’s family life. I immediately sent them a friend request on Facebook. I wanted people to see that these fears are unfounded. Who knows, maybe they’ll even read this post.
My daughter tried to take her life at the age of 10. She is now 14 and is a bright, beautiful, insightful, thoughtful, loving, and due to reality, a slightly hardened, young lady. She’s tough. She’s been through a lot for such a young age and she is stronger for it. She knows what it feels like to be in that black hole with no idea how to get out. She knows more about how other children, and far too many adults, react to mental illness, and especially the word “suicide” then I wish she did. We’d like to change that.
Don’t be that person. Don’t judge someone who is going through a mental illness. Don’t assume what might be causing that illness, or what may have caused a suicide, or suicide attempt. Teach your children to show kindness and love, not to be afraid of, or stay away from, a child who has suffered with it. Lead by example. Show all of those thoughtful and loving traits that you would want another adult to show your child, because one day…it just may be.