It’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and I have been thinking about the numerous aspects of what this represents.
Unfortunately, having suicidal thoughts, plans and intentions are symptoms of many mental illnesses. I have experienced them many times and I can tell you quite clearly that I felt terrified of them, even at my worst when I had no clear cognition and truly believed everyone would be better off without me. I was not being selfish. My illnesses took over, which is what happens with this specific symptom. Again, it is not a choice, even when one “decides” to follow through with the thoughts, making a plan and acting on it. It is due to the state of the brain at that moment in time. It, in and of itself, is not a disease. It is a symptom just as change in appetite, low energy and helplessness is of depression.
Too many people do not understand this phenomenon and too many people with mental illness who have suicidal thoughts and/or died by suicide are blamed, as if we have emotional and cognitive control at those times. Our brains work differently than others who have not experienced these thoughts. We are wired differently. It does not mean we are “bad” or completely “fucked up.” Unfortunately, I have heard these adjectives in relation to my own illnesses, when I have been open about having suicidal thoughts when I was very ill.
I do not necessarily blame people who have these misunderstood beliefs. This is why I am so open about all of my experiences with mental illness. People need to have a better understanding of the realities of what it is like living with these illnesses and need to be educated. It is certainly not easy and no one should ever be blamed for their suffering. One would not blame a cancer patient for having cancer. That would be cruel.
Hint, Hint: it’s the same for someone suffering with mental illness…we should not be blamed.
Feeling hopeless, fatigued, having difficulty sleeping and eating, not enjoying things we used to and having suicidal thoughts do not warrant blame. In reality, suicidal thoughts and actions are not conjured up for no reason. It is due to illness, plain and simple. Just as I suffered from a sinus infection and dealt with symptoms of facial pain, difficulty breathing through my nose and a fever, I suffer from symptoms related to my mental illness. Very different symptoms but still symptoms nonetheless.
Doesn’t this make sense?
*Spread the word during this month: Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (and always).