Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
Last summer, I convinced three friends to partake in a 16-mile overnight walk through Philadelphia to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The walk took us about eight hours to complete and we were all required to raise a minimum of $1,000 for participation in the walk. It’s something that I’ll always be proud of, especially because I’m not the most athletic person and I did the entire thing in cutoff denim shorts.
For those unfamiliar with AFSP and the charity walks they do, many walkers raise money in honor of someone they have lost to suicide. Upon arrival, walkers are asked to pick up and wear different colored Honor Beads – each color corresponding to how you’ve been affected by suicide. There are colors for different loved ones you’ve lost, but there is also the color green. I picked up a set of green beads for myself, and noticed my friends did as well. I noticed many walkers had green beads, amongst other colors. Green means you have struggled personally.
I have struggled.
I don’t always know what it is I have struggled with, or am still sometimes struggling with, but I’m on my own path to figuring out what that is. It’s my own path to walk, but I know I don’t walk it alone.
Many people have struggled with mental health issues. Many continue to do so. Most people struggle in silence. In my experience, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and/or suicide have affected almost everyone I know. When I tell people about my time working with To Write Love On Her Arms and what that organization does, they are often quick to offer their own stories of struggle. As soon as people know I will be familiar and hopefully understand what they’ve been through, they are willing to open up.
If you take anything away from these words, I hope it is the fact that no one is alone in their struggles, and that sharing and talking about these issues is the best way to deal with them. No one is alone.
I am not the only one who has struggled - who continues to struggle.
For National Suicide Prevention Week, we have been posting statistics related to mental health in the LGBTQ+ community on Twitter using the hashtag, #PunkPositive, because knowledge is powerful. Speaking out about mental health and attempting to open the world’s eyes to the staggering statistics is a cause we are proud to be a part of. But while statistics are important, I want to express another important sentiment:
You are not a statistic.
You are a person.
You are a person who deserves to be heard and known. Your struggles are real. Your feelings are valid. Your story must be shared. You are more than a statistic. You are a person.
Sometimes sharing our struggles is another form of coming out. Not everyone will understand, as the stigma is still too heavy. Sometimes we aren’t heard or understood. Sometimes we’re mocked. Sometimes the weight seems impossible to shoulder. What we’re saying to you is that we have struggled. I have struggled. Saying these words and sharing our stories makes that weight a little bit more bearable. We share it together. We carry each other.
If you can – if you want it known – let others know. Because I have struggled, and I bet you have too. And when you say these words to others, you’d be surprised how many people say them back.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, you are not alone. Contact the fine folks at The Trevor Project for support and resources. However, if you or someone you know needs immediate emergency assistance call 1-800-SUICIDE or your local authorities.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner and Blog are exclusively of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization.