This month of September, also known to some as “Suicide Awareness Month,” has come again, and we seem to be no better off than where we were a year ago. Numbers are up for childhood anxiety and depression. And we are still looking at suicide as the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 to 14 in New Hampshire.
How do we make a difference? How do we change the direction of these tragic numbers?
We know that much more treatment is needed. We clearly know that we have a serious need for more trained professional counselors. We are beginning to understand better the impact of children and families’ disconnections during COVID-19. Sadly, most are now just coming to light.
Is a month of awareness and reflection enough? Is it really enough? Most professionals will tell you no. They will add that it is important but in no way the total answer. These are situations that occur daily and must be attended to daily. While bringing awareness through the month of September is useful, it will not really solve the issue. For so many, the world and its problems can sometimes have a devastating impact. We all live every day, and while some days are wonderful and happy, they can also place unexpected and unwanted stress on us. In short, some days are better than others, yet some are worse.
We all talk a lot about ending the stigma of mental illness, and while this discussion is important, we need to look at systemic issues that breed and sustain it. If you ask many people who have wanted to end their lives why, they will often tell you they felt alone. No matter how many family members, friends, or those they would connect with, they still felt alone. Someone once told me the hardest part of dealing with being depressed was not knowing how to talk about it—fearing that people would see them as weak. It would upset others if they talked about how they really felt.
So, what do we do? How do we help? What works? What can really change these feelings in a month?
I am taken back to a childhood song that had a conversation with darkness. It was originally written about a person who became blind. But the lyrics are so true for those who deal with depression. It goes like this…*
“Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
“Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence”
When we take the time to light up the darkness that so often leads to this silence. When we ask the hard questions, and we really listen. When we are there, not with someone but for them. When it is really okay to not be okay. When understanding that talking about our sad feelings does not make them worse. It simply helps others understand our pain. If we all reach out to others when we feel they are in pain and not wait to see if we are right. These kinds of actions open the doors that encourage us to be here for each other. And when this happens, the loneliness will begin to fall apart. In these moments of this September, or any month, we will begin to end the silence, and in doing so, we may have an impact on turning around this thing called mental illness. We may even save a life.
Your life matters even when you feel it does not. Reach out to others, and don’t be afraid; we all get depressed and worry, and none of us really like to talk about it, but remarkable changes happen when we do.
Talk about it if you or someone you know is dealing with this kind of sadness or pain. If you feel uncomfortable talking with people close to you, call us at 833-710-6477. We are here 24/7. We will be here for you, we will listen and want to help.