What The Hell Is Really Going On Here?

A rant about suicide

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

The latest celebrity to take his own life is Chester Bennington from Linkin Park. Before that, it was Chris Cornell of Soundgarden.

And, as a veteran of two wars, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that 22 military veterans per day, both men and women, take their own lives.

While I can stand here and chastise those that are no longer with us for being selfish and taking their own lives, instead, I have a question:

What the HELL is really going on here?

I’ve heard that vets aren’t happy that when a celebrity takes his/her own life that it makes national news, yet the plight of 22 veterans committing suicide per day is not even getting a mention.

I’m here to mention it all.

No matter whom is doing it, suicide appears to be out of control.

According the the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is now considered a leading cause of death, and suicide rates are on the rise.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015 showed that suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 44,000 people.

And, to put it all in perspective, there were more than twice as many suicides (44,193) in the United States as there were homicides (17,793).

Many want to label suicides as selfish, and even cowardly. But is it really? The way I think about it, it can be viewed as an act of courage.

Now, bear with me, and allow me get my thought out before you label me a heartless monster.

Here is a group of people that are suffering. Whether that suffering is really too much to bear, or it was really not a big deal enough to take one’s own life, in my opinion, is not for us to say.

We’re not those people, and we have no way to possibly gauge their suffering to an extent that only the cessation of all Earthly functions will bring about peace and/or relief.

Yet, it is still unknown what’s on the other side of the veil. Sure, we’ve got stories, and some science that suggests there’s life after death. But, amidst all that, there’s no definitive proof.

Much of what we know of any kind of afterlife is rooted in faith, and it’s typically tied to religion. People that have experienced an afterlife are providing anecdotal evidence at best, and there are inconsistent accounts between them of what was actually experienced to think that there’s something we can all count on when we pass.

To clarify, I’m spiritual, and even have a faith and belief in God. But, it’s not anchored in tangible empirical fact, it’s completely tethered by faith.

So, the reality is that even if we have faith, we have no absolute proof. This means, these people are taking their lives without fully knowing what awaits them after the deed is done; if anything.

For me, the courage is in them taking a step into the unknown. Yet, the sadness that comes to mind is that even without knowing what awaits them, these poor souls are willing to take a chance that something, anything, better must await them. And that whatever it is HAS to be better than to have to endure one more day, hour, or minute on this Earth.

Perhaps their chance pays off, and there’s a paradise that awaits them. And perhaps there’s an infinite darkness with nothing that comes next. Either way, that’s a better option for many than dealing with anything that’s both sad and beautiful here in our physical world.

Now, before you think I’m defending suicide, I’m not. What I’m saying is that we as a People, a global species, are killing each other without actually pulling a trigger or tying a noose.

In the things we do, the way we act, and the way in which we treat each other matters. It affects others, it impacts lives. It’s about time we start realizing that and that WE stop being so damn selfish, forcing others to snuff out their brilliance on this Earth way before they’re supposed to.

As a People, let’s take some responsibility here, shall we? I mean, we’re all busy. I get that. But, have you ever been in a situation where you just had the worst day ever, and wished you had someone to talk to? Only for everyone you’d ever want to share with or confide in to be busy with work, kids, business, passion pursuits, etc.

If we keep de-prioritizing our interpersonal relationships, the suicide epidemic will never get better.

Put down the smart phone. Close the laptop lid. Turn off the TV, and TALK to people. Just talk.

Be in the moment with another being. Feel that connection. It’s real.

Your relationship with your social media account isn’t real. Even if you think the real people on the other end are connecting with you on a personal level, the only way to connect with someone else on a personal level is to be in the same physical space as they are. Talking to them, and allowing them to talk back.

Share thoughts and fears, exchange ideas, and most of all… just listen.

Yes, suicide and mental health are intertwined. Yes, we need to solve mental health, but why are we waiting for “someone else” to solve the immediate human problem?

Let me ask a general question. Who’s working on mental health? Who specifically? Is it a person? What’s his or her name? An organization? What’s the name of the organization? Who leads it, what is their mission?

I don’t care who it is, because if the suicide epidemic is going to change, it’s up to me, up to you, and up to everyone individually, to step up and give some time to someone who isn’t you or your smart device.

This might sound like a rant against technology, but it’s not really. It’s a frustration that the promise of technology was to bring us “closer together”, and like so many other things, has done just the opposite.

Sure, texting and chatting online is easy. It’s fast. It’s immediate. But, so what? Instead of a typed up word, dial the phone part of that same smart phone and call someone.

In a text, no one can see you smile. In an instant message, no one can hear you truly laugh (typing LOL doesn’t count). In an email, no one can hear you sigh, or cry, or carry despair.

Only personal interaction can do that. So, I guess to answer my own question of “What the HELL is going on here”, is that we’re so busy and so flooded with stimuli that we’re lonely.

We have amazing technology at our fingertips that can bridge huge geographic distances, and yet, we’re more isolated than ever.

Now, it doesn’t seem right that I scold you by saying YOU’RE not doing enough. Only because, I have no idea if you’re doing enough, or anything at all. Only you know.

So, I’m not demanding that you do anything. I’m demanding that I do something to help curb suicide.

  • I demand that I speak to people, not just talk at them.
  • I demand that I slow down enough to listen to someone say something that matters to them.
  • I demand that I’ll be compassionate enough to understand someone else’s struggles other than my own.
  • I demand that I step outside my self-induced bubble of “busy-ness” and reach out to a friend for absolutely no reason at all.
  • I demand that when someone wants or needs to talk, that I will be there for them, regardless of time of day or night.

It is my hope that by placing these demands of myself, that someone might not make that decision, courageous, cowardly, or otherwise, to end themselves.

I would much prefer that he or she instead decides to stay with us just a little longer and blessing us with their brilliance every day until nature decides it’s time to move to the next plane of existence.

If you suspect someone might be suicidal, take them seriously. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a quick guide on how to approach someone you think might be at risk of suicide. There’s also a hotline, and steps you can take to stay with the person at risk until they get the help they both need and deserve.

What will you do to help prevent suicide? Anything? Or, should it be something that someone else works on?

Thanks for reading.