Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. And before we talk about this, I’m going to ask you to do something for me. It’ll be quick, I promise. Can you do me a favor and set a timer? Grab your phone, your stopwatch, your FitBit, whatever floats that boat. Grab a timer and set it for 40 seconds. Ready? Go.
Every year, 800,000 people die from suicide. That’s one death every 40 seconds. That’s one life lost every 40 seconds. That’s one person leaving us every 40 seconds. One life. Every 40 seconds.
That’s it. That—right there. That’s all it takes. Forty seconds.
In today’s society, mental illness still bears a heavy stigma. For so many of us, it’s a secret. Something we’re ashamed of. Something we “just don’t talk about.” Something we can’t talk about.
We regularly and openly discuss our physical health. Our ailments, our afflictions, our diseases, our disorders, our illnesses. Asthma, arthritis, diabetes, cancer—that’s dinner conversation at this point. That’s grocery store conversation! Waiting in line, talking to someone you couldn’t even pick out in a lineup. Chatting about the Big C.
My grandpa was recently diagnosed with cancer, and the response has been absolutely overwhelming—from total strangers to friends and family. It’s totally kosher to talk about this disease with complete and utter transparency. To anyone.
You get the factual questions:
Oh, your grandpa has cancer?
What kind? Pancreatic? Oh, that’s a tough one.
How bad is it? Stage four? Yikes.
What kind of treatment is he getting? Radiation? Chemo?
Have you thought about hospice?
And, of course, you get an influx of emotional support:
“Hey, how’s Paka feeling?”
“How’d he do today? Is he in good spirits?”
The people who go out of their way to bring dinners, call, text:
“How are you feeling today? How are you handling this?”
“How can I help?”
“What do you need?”
And I love these people, I do. Humanity really knocks it out of the park at Cancer Ballfield.
Because we’ve been there. Our moms have had cancer or our neighbor or our friend. We’ve had cancer. So, we get it. We understand the toll an illness can take—the struggle and agony of compromised physical health because we’ve been there. Someone we love has been there.
But here’s the thing.
Someone we love has struggled with mental health, too. Someone we love suffers from a serious mental illness, too. Some of us have been there. Some of us get it.
Cancer is an epidemic, there’s no denying that. But so is mental illness. This world loses one person every 40 seconds to suicide. And for every one of those lost lives, there are 25 additional attempts.
And yet here we sit—suicide rates at an all-time high. In 2016, the United States rate of death by suicide surged to its highest level in 30 years.
30 years. 800,000 people. Every 40 seconds.
And still. We don’t talk about it. We won’t talk about it.
It’s time for that to change.
Can you imagine those numbers starting to dwindle? That 800,000 dropping. That 40 seconds getting longer. Can you imagine a minute, a day, a week without suicide?
Can you imagine someone choosing to stay?
That’s what today is. That’s what this is about. Today is about deciding to stay.
Stay. Find what you were made for, and stay.
Stay to survive. Stay to laugh. Stay to eat pizza and watch football and learn to knit and dance at your wedding. Stay to read your favorite book and kiss your dog and fly a fricken kite.
Stay to love. Stay to live.
I was made for love. I was made to be a sister. A daughter. A friend. I was made for something great. And maybe I don’t know what that is yet. But that’s okay. Because I’ll find out. We will find out.
I was made for a reason. You were made for a reason. We were made for a reason.
So, find it. Do it. Live it. Find what you were made for and run with it. Run like hell. Even when it gets hard. Even when it feels like you can’t breathe. Even when your legs give out. Crawl. Fight. Find what you were made for and fight like hell to finish this race.
Find what you were made for.
Find what you were made for.