As I scroll through my Twitter and Facebook feeds today, I see many heartfelt posts mourning the tragic loss of Robin Williams. I’ve also seen judgmental and callous posts, and, once again, a lack of understanding of mental illness and lack of compassion for someone who has taken their own life demonstrates that we have a long way to go in educating people about the seriousness of mental illness.
So I wrote this. Because seeing someone turn someone else’s suicide into an Internet joke breaks my heart.
There is a haunting thought that returns every time I hear that someone, anyone, has taken their own life.
In the moment before someone commits suicide, the last several seconds before they succumb to the lies that depression whispers—insidious and merciless whispers—are the darkest, saddest, and loneliest that I can possibly imagine.
The struggle to silence the lies leaves the head and heart the weary, and sometimes that war has been waging for a very long time. The despair and the unrelenting whispers turn to shame, and the shame gives way to a darkness, fear, and a desperation so strong that any belief that they can somehow overcome it is lost.
The thought of any human being finding themselves in that moment is heart-shattering. The pain of that moment is unimaginable to most of us, and misunderstood by too many.
It is not selfish.
It is not an act of weakness.
The moment that someone decides that the only chance they have to escape the grip of searing pain and ever-present darkness is to end their own life is possibly the loneliest and most terrifying moment their hearts have ever had to bear.
Just the thought of someone inside that moment should give rise to compassion for a fellow human being, and not judgement.
Be careful with your words, today and every day. There are countless others fighting their own battles.
They will read your words, and they will believe them.