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Column: Suicide, celebrity or otherwise, calls for compassion


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I used to believe that committing suicide was a selfish act. I’ve since come to know that it is, for certain.

Some may be angered by my statement, but I need to make it clear that there is a distinct difference between the person and the act. The act itself is selfish in its finality with no chance for recourse.

But the individual committing the deed is simply desperate to the point of hopelessness. He has made the attempt to bear so much pain on his own for so long until he simply can’t do it anymore. Feeling as if you are all out of options is what causes people to do desperate things in life — not selfishness.

The recent tragic loss of Robin Williams highlights this well. A man who tirelessly gave of himself, on the screen as well as behind the scenes, brought a joy to this world that he couldn’t seem to bring to himself. Despite the success the world saw from the outside looking in, internally he had reached a point of desperation.

He apparently had arrived at a state of hopelessness that led him to take his own life.

Many others, without celebrity status, also have reached this same desperate end.

Some might say that desperate people don’t have to feel this way, that they instead should have reached out for help.

The sad truth is when you live in a society where being depressed or suicidal is often interpreted as being weak-minded, soft or unable to man up, the invitation to open up leaves something to be desired.

It is not a mere coincidence that statistics show males having suicide rates four times higher than that of their female counterparts. Honestly, why would someone already experiencing the greatest pain they’ve ever felt make themselves vulnerable only to be judged and put down? Why would any rationally thinking individual accept the invitation to take on additional pain?

They wouldn’t. Consequently, it becomes a topic that gets shoved under the rug — that is, until the next tragic loss occurs.

Why does someone have to die for suicide prevention to become relevant?

When someone shares that he or she has cancer, people come out in droves to rally around that individual and support that person’s in recovery. We wear ribbons, buy T-shirts and proudly display magnetic bumper stickers.

We run, walk, swim and raise money as well as awareness. Early diagnosis and intervention is encouraged as much as humanly possible, because we know that the chances of saving a life are greater the earlier that the disease is detected and caught.

Yet, when someone shares that he or she is depressed or feeling suicidal, that person is often shunned, mocked or criticized. Words like whiner and weak are bandied about, and statements are made such as, “everybody gets sad, shake it off” or “he/she just wants attention.”

Regretfully, despite the fact that suicide, just like cancer, has a greater chance of being prevented with early diagnosis and intervention, cries for help frequently go ignored. All the while, suicide rates continue to rise.

In addition to the devastation experienced by family and friends, every needless loss is a life interrupted and a potentially world-changing dream permanently deferred. Every loss robs our opportunity to be smarter, stronger and brighter to the world at large.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and October is National Depression Awareness Month. You can contact your local chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention via afsp.org and get involved. Become a bit more educated on mental health issues and make yourself aware of the signs of depression.

It is well within our power to stem the tragic trend of suicide, beginning with our thoughts, our words and our actions, one to another. Tap into your compassion and reach out to that family member, that friend ... or even that stranger. You never know whose life you could be changing.

Or even saving.

Columbus’ April Ige is a writer, poet and speaker leading a motivational outreach called Dream Wide Awake, inspiring people to live their dreams. She can be reached at aprilige.com.

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