On a regular Thursday evening I received news shocking me beyond words. I got a message from a friend asking, “What happened to Becky?” To my knowledge, nothing had happened to Becky. I just spoke to her the day before. I was planning on calling her in the morning to talk about me visiting before she moved to Nashville. Becky has been one of my closest friends for five years. We were roommates, co-workers, lovers of shake shack, and Disney movies. You could find us baking pie, laughing about life, or eating at I-hop. Becky has been there through some of the hardest and happiest times of my life. When she asked, “How are you?” I knew that she meant it. She was a true friend. She lived and loved holding nothing back. She could always be found with a smile and an encouraging note in hand. Yet, she left no note, when she took her life.
Becky lost her battle with depression on September 8th, 2016. I believe that she fought long and hard to beat her reoccurring depression and anxiety. Few knew that she was suffering. She struggled daily between the reality that many people loved and cared for her, and the lie that told her no one cared and that she was a failure. The ugly thing about depression, anxiety, and mental illnesses alike, is that it’s a condition that affects your mind and body. Losing the will to survive is not only scary but it’s made even harder by the fact that people believe that it’s a choice. Who would willingly choose to have cancer, be blind, deaf, or have a heart condition? Likewise, who would willingly choose to lose the ability feel normal, the ability to experience true happiness, the ability to feel alive?
During my grieving of the tragic death of my friend, I’ve discovered some shocking statistics.
- According to the Huffington Post, 1 in 5 people suffer from a mental illness.
- According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 60% of people suffering with a mental illness don’t seek help.
- NAMI also states, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in adults under 30.
- According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 in 4 adults with mental health condition feel like others are not caring or sympathetic when it comes to their condition.
Like so many others, Becky desperately tried to hide her condition. There was a time when she was particularly down and I asked her if she wanted to see a counselor but she said, “I don’t want people to think I’m crazy.” She wasn’t crazy, but she also wasn’t crazy for having that fear. We need to change the way we view mental health. We need to realize that the mind can get ill just as easily as we can catch a cold. Many of us struggle to understand the mind. Just last year, I was struggling to understand my own mind. I started seeing a therapist weekly. Admittedly, I felt ashamed at first. I didn’t want people to know I had a problem. But then I realized that was wrong. I shouldn’t have to hide something that helps me. I personal believe that everyone should see a therapist at least once a year. Just like you get a physical or get your teeth cleaned.
One of my favorite actresses, Kerry Washington expresses, “My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth. I go to the dentist. So, why wouldn’t I go to the shrink?”
Becky lived and died in age that views depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health issues as something to be ashamed of. Something to hide at all cost. Something that most avoid talking about.
Let’s talk about it. If you are contemplating suicide, talk to someone. You don’t have to be ashamed. We all need help sometimes. If you have a friend who is expressing thoughts of hopelessness, talk about it. Ask them if they are suicidal. It may be a hard question. But I believe it will be worth it. It could save their life.
It’s easy for a friend or family member of a person who committed suicide to blame themselves; to think, “I should have…” or “I could have…” or “what if…” I’ve asked myself these questions on repeat. In all my questioning over the past month I’ve realized that nothing I do will bring my friend back. I was shocked by her sudden death and I am now shocked by the statistics surrounding mental illness and suicide. The shock of the statistics motivates me to do something different. I hope it will motivate you as well; to speak up, to talk about the truth, to end the stigma of mental illness, to change the statistics, to save a life.