The death of actor/comedian, Robin Williams, rocked the nation. This extraordinary man who possessed the gift of making others laugh struggled with depression and eventually chose to end his struggle by committing suicide.
Also, more recently, Julian St. John, son of actor Kristoff St. John also took his life after battling mental illness and on December 4, Titi Branch, co-founder of the very successful natural hair care line, Miss Jessie’s, also committed suicide.
I think it’s safe to conclude that most people would say that these three individuals, “had it all,” but mental illness doesn’t care what you have or don’t have. I also imagine each of these people probably felt guilty or perhaps even ashamed at “having it all” and yet still being harassed by unhappiness.
There have been very heartfelt statements issued by the survivors of these and many other suicide losses. I don’t think the statements are intended to validate or signify agreement with the person’s choice. But instead, I see these statements as an endeavor to raise awareness and to dismantle the judgment and shame surrounding mental illness.
I’ve stood on the edge, and I understand what it’s like to believe that death is your only hope for peace. I know what’s it is like to be tired of trying everyday to “be” or to “feel” happy. A few days ago, I was riding in my car, and I felt the darkness crawl up my back then across and down my shoulders. In an instant, I went from singing a tune to drying my eyes. I hate those moments, but I know that certain times of the year, especially holidays, tend to be difficult for me.
Rosie O’neal, senior pastor of Koinoina Christian Center, describes suicide as a person taking a picture of their today and sealing it forever as their eternity. You see, I know that things can and do get better. When I look at the me from 10 years ago, my struggle was relentless. I seldom slept. I was angry . I was anxious. I hated myself. I cried often. I felt completely alone. Today, I can say that I sleep fairly decent most nights. I’m not as anxious. I like myself. Actually I love the man I have become. I only cry occasionally. Even though I sometimes still feel alone, I know that I am not.
It may sound strange, but I often talk to my depression. I say very mean things to it. I want it to know that it’s not welcome. Why not? If you’re gonna stay here, you’re gonna do what I say. I’ve told it that suicide is NOT an option. See, each of us has the power to direct our lives by the words we speak. If you struggle with mental illness, look it in eyes and tell it how things are going to be. Tell it that suicide is just NOT an option.