Choosing to die by suicide has become an epidemic in the United States. I lost my mother to it in 2012 and have almost become a statistic at least three times.
As many of you know already, I recently gave a short speech at a function to raise awareness of choosing to die by suicide. All the performers that evening either were suicide survivors themselves or family members of someone who died.
One young lady broke my heart as she sang about the death of her sister and her tears filled my heart with grief.
I was there that evening to speak to those who, like this hurting young lady, to those who were survived an attempt, and for those who might have been there that night thinking of dying at their own hand.
The Tragedy of Suicide by the Numbers
I hate to sit here and quote stats at you, but I think they help bring a sense of reality to what I’m talking about.
Everyday, approximately 123 Americans die by suicide. (CDC)
Thereis one death by suicide in the US every 12 minutes. (CDC)
Suicide takes the lives ofover 44,965 Americans every year. (CDC)
The highest suiciderates in the US are among Whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives.
An estimated quarter million people each year become suicide survivors (AAS).
Thereis one suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts. (CDC)
There is one suicide for every estimated 4 suicide attempts in the elderly. (CDC)
1 in 100,000 children ages 10 to 14 die by suicide each year. (NIMH)
7 in 100,000 youth ages 15 to 19 die by suicide each year. (NIMH)
12.7 in 100,000 young adults ages 20-24 die by suicide each year.(NIMH)
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year old Americans. (CDC)
Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for adults ages 18-65. (CDC)
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual young people who come from families that reject or do not accept them are over 8x more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families accept them.
Each time an LGBTQ person is a victim of physical or verbal harassment or abuse, they become 2.5x more likely to hurt themselves.
A Voice from a Very Dark Place
As I sat and listened to the music being performed and the people around me speak, I grew aware that many were in an extremely dark place. I overheard one woman tell another about her son who had died and another about her sister.
So, when it came my time to perform, I felt I had arrived at a special place. I had the opportunity to share with those in the audience what it was like to decide to die.
I began by reading an edited version of my post, The Danger of the Wave I had written in June of 2018. In my post, I had explained the wave of relief I had felt after I took an overdose in 1995 which I almost did not survive. That evening when I almost died, I suddenly found I wasn’t afraid or anxious anymore, I was at peace with the knowledge that I would never have to wake up again.
Then I went to bed to die.
I then spoke about the reasons people die by suicide. It isn’t to harm someone else or get back at them, and it isn’t out of anger at someone else, it is because of the horrendous emotional pain I was in.
Afterwards, I moved on to words of hope I had learned from that very dark place.
I told the family members who had lost their beloveds that they were not responsible for the actions their loved one took. As family, they were not capable of stopping someone who truly wanted to die.
I told the people who had survived like I did that I understood what they were going through. Even after twenty-three years, there are still people who say unkind words about my attempt. They feel bitter and afraid.
Words of Hope from Someone Who Understands
After I spoke to the audience about the other aspects of death by suicide, it was time to speak to anyone who was there who may be thinking about dying.
These are the same words I wish to offer to all of you this evening.
There is no one in the entire universe like you.
That makes you unique, one-of-a-kind, and special.
If you die, humanity will lose a piece of ourselves.
You are the only voice who can help someone else who is struggling.
Your voice may be the one who changes the destiny of all mankind.
Ordinary People Can Change the World
To those who sniff at the above words, let me remind you that history is replete with interventions by ordinary people that have changed the direction of the world.
The two people I’m going to write about below are famous today, but they both had humble beginnings. Hhad they chosen to die, the world as we know it could not exist.
Rosa Parks. Mrs. Rosa Parks was born and raised in Alabama to a couple who were former slaves. The family lived on a farm where she once stood in front of the house with her family and watched while the Ku Klux Klan marched down the road.
After marrying Raymond Parks, in 1943 she became involved in the civil rights movement.
Rosa Parks was an ordinary person with a high school education who one day made a decision that made history.
On December 1, 1995 Rosa Parks was on her way home on a bus from a long day at work. She had taken a seat in the first rows of seats designated for “colored” passengers. At that time, the law required that African-Americans sit in the back of the bus while Caucasian-Americans sat in the front.
As the bus Mrs. Parks rode on continued to run its route, the “white section” filled up and the bus driver noticed that white passengers were needing to stand in the aisle. He stopped the bus and moved the sign that separated the two sections back one row leaving the seat in which Mrs. Parks sat in the “white only” section.
The law at that time gave bus driver’s the right to call the Montgomery, Alabama police should a black passenger refuse to move.
Rosa Parks knew this, yet when the bus driver insisted that she give up her seat to allow white people to use it, Mrs. Parks did a brave thing, she stood her ground.
The driver demanded, “Why don’t you stand up?” to which Rosa replied, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.”
The driver called the police and had her arrested.
The brave act of one small Alabaman seamstress changed the course of the history of the United States forever.
Albert Einstein. Although Albert Einstein is considered one of the world’s great geniuses today, it wasn’t always so.
Einstein was born in 1881 and was very slow in learning to speak. Even after he did start talking, he often whispered to himself before saying the words out loud.
The family decided to give him the nickname “the dopey one.”
When Einstein turned 21, he graduated from Zurich Polytechnic, Switzerland in 1900. His grades were good but not stellar, in fact his marks were the lowest in his math courses!
After he graduated with his diploma as a Physics and Mathematics teacher, Einstein was unable to find work.
The problem? Einstein’s professors had labeled him a troublemaker and a disobedient student, then refused to give him the necessary good references to teach.
Because of his inability to find work, Einstein’s father wrote to friends asking if they would hire his son, but his attempts failed.
Einstein’s father later declared on his death bed to Einstein that his son was a great disappointment to him.
Finally, in 1903, a friend of Albert Einstein’s found him a job at a patent office as a patent investigator. There he would spend a few hours evaluating the submitted patents he had been given to investigate and then used the rest of his time doing thought experiments and reading scientific papers.
Two years later, this unknown “dopey”, troublemaker, patent office clerk wrote the scientific paper, “The Special Theory of Relativity.” His paper would turn the world of physics on its head and change the world forever.
So, How Does Any of This Pertain to You?
Had either Rosa Parks or Albert Einstein died before their time, our world would be completely unrecognizable today.
The reason is simple and elegant.
None of us lives in a vacuum, we are all intricately connected beyond any disconnection.
For an example I site myself.
Had I died in February 1995, the DID community would be minus one very loud advocate for the truth about the disorder.
I would never have written this blog and there are lives who may have been unreachable by anyone else’s voice.
I know for a fact that at least one life was saved when I gave the speech “The Danger of the Wave” last week. A person who was there told me someone had received a healthy dose of hope.
I am humbled.
I guarantee, you probably do not understand just how valuable you are and how losing your light prematurely would be a great tragedy to the whole world.
Choosing to Live
Let’s get one thing very clear.
I’m not saying you are not in pain and that you should live on for someone else.
Not at all.
What I am saying is that choosing to live and face your fears and pain is more than something someone else wants you to do, it is downright heroic.
We do decide to live can take the horrible pain and suffering we feel and turn it into something beautiful.
It’s people like you and I who are so passionate who can use our energy to propel the world forward and bring peace, one person at a time.
I want to force you to listen, but I know I can’t.
Only you can do that.
It’s up to you to find the courage to go on, even when you don’t want to.
I’ve had many opportunities to end my existence since 1995 and believe me sometimes I feel it would be better.
However, my natural curiosity has kept me going.
I want to see what’s around the next corner, what good things I would miss should I die?
I just wanted to impart to you a little of that curiosity and hope today.
Choose to live because you want to know how you can help others, or simply because what goes down must go up.
If your life is in the toilet tonight, well, tomorrow or next week things must only go up from here.
Please, choose to live.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Henna Sohail:
“And one day, as she was buried deep in her thoughts,
she heard a still small voice ask her,
could go back in life,
what would you have done differently?’
And without missing a beat
she answered, ‘I would have chosen me’
And finally, she made the choice.”
How to Call For Help
If you or someone you know is suicidal, please, don’t hesitate to call for help.
Click the following link to find the Suicide Hotline for your country.