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Friday, May 4, 2012

I just had to write this.....

Yesterday when I read the news of former NFL football star Junior Seau's suicide I cried.

Did I know him? No. Was I a devoted fan? I had heard of him, seen him play, recognized his talent, but no.

So why would I shed actual tears over the death of someone I didn't know, who had no impact whatsoever on my life? Because I've been there.

More times than I would like to admit I have been in a place so dark, so painful, so lonely, so empty, and so hopeless that I would've done anything just to make it stop.

And I did things. I have done many things. In fact, the only reason I sit here still alive today is coincidence and luck. Am I glad I am still alive? Yes. Now I am. But do not judge me or anyone else unless you have been in that horrible endless cavern. Unless you've felt the unbearable, indescribable, intangible pain that we have felt. You will never in your life know hopelessness and loneliness unless you are unfortunate enough to be one of the millions suffering with a serious mental illness.

Let me make one thing very, very clear. Suicide is not about you. It is not about the family, the friends, the co-workers, the neighbours, the doctors, or anyone else. It is a desperate, frustrated, hopeless attempt to stop the seemingly endless pain. A pain that takes over your entire body. A pain that permeates every muscle, bone, joint, and cell in your body. It is a physical pain. It is an emotional pain. It is a mental pain. And it is relentless.

Don't write articles on how suicide is selfish and we all need to make our kids watch the video of Junior's mother's crying. That's ridiculous. If you knew anyone suffering with depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia you would never suggest that as a useful tool for preventing suicide. Because a suicidal person is not thinking about their family at that moment. They are not thinking about the tears or aftermath. The only thing in their mind at that moment is the pain and emptiness, and an uncontrollable need to make it stop. Shaming them with the potential pain suffered by their family would, frankly, just cause them more pain, guilt, and sadness-possibly pushing them over the edge. Because if you knew anything about the mind of someone in the grips of a major depression you would know that at that moment they are 100% sure that their family, and the world as a whole would be a lot better off without them. The fact that they are wrong about that is irrelevant. And you shaming them with their own thoughts is downright ignorant, and potentially dangerous.

A suicidal person, in fact anyone in the grips of depression or other mental illnesses, needs simply this: compassion, support, and understanding. That's it. They don't need advice. They don't need to be told why their thoughts are wrong. They don't need to be told how their illness or death would affect other people. Because they already know. They place so much guilt, shame, blame, and hatred on themselves that they certainly don't need it from you. Especially if that you happens to be a seriously misguided sports writer who is completely ignorant when it comes to helping people with a mental illness.

Do we need to pay attention to this tragedy? Definitely. Do we need to discuss suicide more, discuss mental illness more, and better help those suffering? Absolutely.

Is the guilt and shame game the way to do it? Certainly, absolutely, most definitely not.

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