This blog post is part of the Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour in partnership with Debt Drop. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.
As Americans, we often pride ourselves on self-sufficiency. We idolize those who we see as having “made it.” They drive the fancy cars, live in the gigantic houses, hold the powerful jobs, and have the perfect lives. But what we often miss is the people behind those status symbols. As long as we see them smiling, we assume everything is okay, and that’s just not always the case. Take the example of Glenn Scarpelli and Patricia Colant, a couple in their 50s from New York who seemingly had it all. They had great jobs on Madison Avenue, their children graduated from a prestigious private high school in the Upper East Side, and had strong ties with family and friends. So what led them to jump to their deaths in July of this year? Even close friends had no idea that they were drowning in debt to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars. They left letters explaining that they simply couldn’t see a way out of their financial mess, and that despite their “wonderful life,” they felt their world closing rapidly in on them. They literally took their own lives because of money issues, leaving behind everything else that they loved so much and taking what they saw as the only escape: death.
It’s very detrimental that financial success in America is so widely paraded and celebrated while struggles are dismissed or swept under the rug. Have you ever worried about how a bill is going to get paid this month? Or where the money to fix your car is going to come from? Me, too. So why aren’t we talking about this? Why are we allowing debt problems to spiral so far out of control that people are literally jumping off of buildings to escape? A friend once told me that true friendships are messy. You can’t be truly invested in someone and keep your hands clean of their burdens and their worries. True friendships involve getting into the uncomfortable hardships of their life in order to take their hand and walk through those dark valleys with them. As Christians, we must remember that every life is a life made in the image of our Creator. Every life is precious, and every life is worth preserving. I have been fortunate enough to have only experienced the effects of suicide from a distance, so I can’t claim to have first-hand knowledge of this dark topic. My sister, however, has lost some very close friends. I asked her if she’d be willing to share her story, and she graciously agreed:
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always dealt with severe depression. I went through self harm, and periods of questioning the value of my life. I had been on the ledge before. But nothing had ever really kept me in those moments, nothing ever really made me feel stuck. 8 years ago, I had a very close friend who dealt with the same issues I dealt with when it came to depression. He was the first person I ever knew who had actually made suicidal attempts. It shook me to my core a little bit, realizing the severity of depression and meeting it face to face. One night he had sent me a very unsettling text, explaining he was sorry, and saying goodbye. I was awake all night trying to get ahold of him, fearing the worst had happened. That time, a coma was the only thing that kept him from us. He attempted but it wasn’t successful. He had suffered from severe memory loss, but in time would be okay. He would live. I had never felt so scared and out of control in my life than at that moment. He always had someone with him when he previously attempted. I was one of those people at one point, I found him and was able to physically stop him. Before the night of receiving that text, I had never experienced the crippling fear of realizing someone you loved could be taken away from you so suddenly, and there was not a single thing you could do to stop it. That fear brought me to a whole new low. As I was healing from that, my family and I suffered the sudden loss of our cousin to suicide. I remember feeling very lost, and closed off. All of a sudden, suicide was very, very real to me. Death was real.
I felt an overwhelming amount of mortality wash over me. It took a lot for me to learn how to cope. It was truly devastating for me, and left me with more questions than answers. A year later, my dear friend had another attempt, successfully killing his demons; but tragically taking his beautiful heart and soul along with them. All I could do was scream. I was in pure denial. I just kept thinking about how unreal it felt, that he was just with me, then all the sudden he could be gone. I couldn’t quite grasp that concept. With him, I felt so much sadness and hopelessness. I thought he had gotten better. I thought there never had to be a night where anyone needed to worry about what he was going to do. Looking back, I saw all the signs that last night we spent together. I was so upset with myself that I didn’t see everything when it was right in front of my face. The way he said goodbye, the tones in his voice, how he seemed at peace more on that night than any other moment I had spent with him. I blamed myself for the longest time. I thought I could’ve done something.
The summer after I had lost him, I met another man who helped me get through the depression I was experiencing from this second loss to suicide. He helped me heal, he was my crutch until I could become strong on my own. He was always a very logical person, he was very smart and very intuitive. He helped me learn how to cope differently than before, in a healthier way. Through several moves, job changes, deaths in each family, we were always there for each other. He was always such a positive person. His friendship always benefited me, it never hindered me in my healing. He lost his father over a year ago, and a week after that, suddenly lost his dog. Anyone who knew him, knew that dog meant the world to him. He had always had issues with his father, but he wanted to make things right because his father was very sick. He took it very hard, but he was silent about everything. He never talked about it. He never let anyone know. He always wanted to be that person that was there for everyone else. A couple months ago, he just ended things with his serious girlfriend. He had told me he was going to marry her, and he was so excited about that. The last day of his life, he sent me a text saying he was moving away, to another country for a job opportunity and wouldn’t be back. I believed him, he was always making such drastic moves in his career to better himself. He wanted me to make plans to see him before he left. I made sure to let him know how big of a deal this was, as my heart sank thinking about never seeing him again. My mind wandered to the dark thoughts of thinking “what if he is going to kill himself?”, even though he never gave me any reason to think he would do that. For that very reason, I made sure to let him know that I loved him, even though I kept trying to convince myself I was just overthinking. I hadn’t heard back from him after that, but didn’t think much of that either. A couple days later, I had found out he was gone forever. I was in so much shock I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t do anything. All I could think was, “not again.” When it finally hit me, I lost control of myself. This time, I felt so much anger. I was lied to, I was blindsided. One thought that ran through my head the most was, “if you loved me, why’d you leave me?”
The more I talked to my friends about it, the more answers I got. The more I saw how and why he did things those last moments, and the more things made sense. It’s so easy to put blame on myself for not being enough to keep someone here. This is the third person now, what am I doing wrong? My heart creates all these terrible scenarios of what I could’ve done, signs that I had ignored, and reasons to blame myself. My head understands it has nothing to do with me. I firmly believe the head and heart are the two strongest weapons and strengths a human has, but when they work against each other, they can create chaos. All my life my faith has been grounded in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I have believed, and will always believe that we will reunite with our lost loved ones someday. As long as we carry the faith and believe in what the Lord has done for us. While there are many times I have lost that faith, He hasn’t given up on me. I still have that embedded hope that I will see these people once again. But at the same time, it doesn’t take away the real pain of them no longer being here. I have some of the best guardian angels watching over me, but it doesn’t lessen the pain and trauma I experience of them suddenly being gone.
Suicide is a scary, sensitive thing. I wish there was more awareness of it. As much as we’d like to believe there’s always signs, there’s not. Some people just want to get rid of that demon so bad, they don’t realize they are killing themselves in the process. A lot of people that suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, are the most selfless people in the world. They don’t want to hurt anyone, they don’t want to put anyone through pain. The beautiful thing about human beings is we are all different. No one person is the same. We can’t sit there and think what worked for one person is going to work for another. Everyone has to make an effort in their loved ones lives. Everyone has to be open and honest with their love and care for one another. It’s a wonderful thing to be selfless, to be kind, to be loving. Sometimes, something that may seem to small to us, may be huge to someone else. I can think of one person in particular who has told me a couple times now, that I have sent him a little message just letting him know how much I loved him, and I found out later those messages saved him. There’s no answer yet to curing depression. There’s no specific way to stop suicide. It’s hard, it’s probably one of the hardest battles I will ever fight in my life. But I truly think that if we let people know there are options, if we share more experiences and offer help, things can change. Depression is serious illness. We just have to treat it with love and compassion and care like we would any other illness. It hurts terribly to know someone you love hurt so badly, they didn’t see any other way. We have to really work hard to make the awareness greater, make an effort, and make the options more attainable for people in need. But I believe with all my heart, that things will get better, and things will start to change with more awareness.
So, what can be done? What can we do to help these people that, in my sister’s words, are literally killing themselves to get rid of their demons? I believe that first, we should listen. We live in a world that is overwhelmingly me-centered. Put self to the side for a minute and actually engage in conversation with people. “How are you?” shouldn’t just be a rote greeting annoyed with an answer. It should be an invitation to meaningful discussion about people’s thoughts, worries, dreams, and feelings. Next, do. When you really listen to someone, you might start being able to see parts of their life they could use some help in. So help them! Make a casserole for their dinner, offer to watch their kids for a couple hours while they nap, make use of your connections if they’re looking for a job. Friendships should be messy, so roll up your sleeves and do some work. And finally, love. Depression doesn’t play favorites, and it affects people from all walks of life. Don’t write someone off or put them in a box if they open up to you about feelings of depression. Telling someone to “cheer up” or that they’ll “feel better” in a couple of days only dismisses their situation and can make things worse. A loving conversation with someone contemplating suicide doesn’t judge them for how they “should feel” or trivialize their thoughts, it seeks to restore them as quickly and fully as possible for their benefit.
If you’re the one facing these feelings, it can feel like you’re on an island. Like everyone else has it all figured out, and no one wants to hear your story. But that’s just not true. If you’re facing depression or thoughts of suicide, seek help. You don’t need to fight alone, and many times, it’s not something you can fight alone. We all have sin-cursed, broken bodies that just don’t work the way they were created to work. A doctor or psychiatrist can help you figure out the best way to clear the mental fog. If you have people around you, talk. Maybe it’s awkward, maybe it’s hard, but it’s infinitely more important. Your life is important to your family, to your friends, to your coworkers, even if it doesn’t seem like it. People aren’t always the greatest at expressing how they feel about things, so start a conversation. Pour into someone else, and allow them to pour back into you. And finally, pray. This is a messed up, sinful world. It always has been, and the bible tells us it will only ever get worse. Praying to God, our only hope of restoration and holiness, can help refocus your thoughts away from your own situation and onto the coming rest promised through Jesus Christ. If you don’t know Him, it can be hard to have any hope of things ever improving. But as it says in Philippians 4:7, the peace of God surpasses all understanding. It literally just doesn’t make sense sometimes how Christians can be so calm and have such peace, but it’s possible through Christ.
Again, if you’re feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK(8255) or text the word HOME to 741741. Calls are free and confidential. Every life is precious, yours included.