My Irish great-grandmother apparently used to pick up the paper and say, “Let’s see who’s dead now.” Going to wakes was part of her social life—that’s why the obituaries are called “the Irish society column.”
True to my Irish roots, I read the obituaries, too. When I do, I’m not looking for people I know, but for people who lived particularly interesting lives.
I have this weird compulsion, though, to find out more about the people who died young. I’ll Google them, read the comments on their obituary on Legacy.com, look them up on Facebook, look their friends up on Facebook. It’s always sad when someone dies young, but when I do this, I’m always hoping to find out how the person died, and hoping that it’s any way but the saddest way to die.
I don’t even like saying that word. But September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject.
This is an issue I feel very strongly about. No one I know well has committed suicide, but I have friends who have been suicidal, which was terrifying. I’ve been through blue periods, but I’ve never seriously considered killing myself.
Bad stuff is always going to happen. People will die unexpectedly, get terrible diseases, suffer from physical pain, have hearts broken, lose jobs, lose friends, be treated cruelly, make terrible mistakes. But the slogan that people used in response to suicides and bullying in the LGBT community is true for everyone—“It gets better.”
Easy for someone who’s not suicidal to say, I know. Especially since people who commit suicide very often suffer from a mental illness like depression or bipolar disorder. I’ve gone through my own mental issues with my anxiety and I’ve had times where I felt like I’d never be happy again. But then I would wake up the next morning with at least a little bit of hope. Mental illness can rob a person of that feeling, which is about the saddest thing I can think of.
It’s easy to boil this down to something like “Get help,” or “Raise awareness of mental illness,” or “Get therapy and/or psychiatric medicine,” or “Hang in there for your family and friends.” But it’s not so easy to know those things when you’re in the middle of any one of the bad things that happen to people every day. Some people have more to deal with in life than others and some people take things harder than others do. But I’ve always believed that what’s good about life outweighs what’s bad, and it breaks my heart that so many people can’t see that.
Occasionally, people will talk in conversation about what the best and worst ways to die are. Death by chocolate gets mentioned in the “best” category, along with dying in your sleep of old age, and as for worst, getting tortured or eaten, or being killed by an exploding toilet tend to be mentioned. But none of those worst things, as far as I’m concerned, come anywhere close to suicide. I’d rather die in any other way than in the absolute fucking misery that suicidal people must feel.
So…I don’t know what else to say except what I’ve already said. Don’t kill yourself. Get help if you’re thinking about it. Try to get anyone you know who’s thinking about it to get the help they need. And for the love of God, be nice to people. There’s enough negativity in the world as it is—no need to make it any worse by being mean. As I’m sure many of the friends and family of the young people I read about in those obituaries will tell you, you really never know what’s going through someone’s mind.