Every forty seconds, somewhere on the face of the earth, a person commits suicide. Every forty seconds means that by the time I find the right words to finish this sentence, someone just bid farewell to this world on his/her own terms. Every forty seconds, a new victim. Suicide: one of the most delicate matters, one of the most devastating realities. In Switzerland alone, according to the association "STOP SUICIDE", there are approximately 1300 to 1400 cases each year, from which 21% are only aged twenty five to thirty five. What is the matter? Sincerely, is this the harsh reality? I think back to only a week ago, as we celebrated World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th; and I remember those who have gone down this pattern and I pray for the people who contemplate on crossing that line. I call upon a brighter day, just add another day.
I only bear a few, exceptional experiences from my sweet sixteen. Thus, I recall one episode in particular: although very short lived, it still alludes to one of those poignant moments we get to live only too seldom. I dare not call it 'insignificant' because even as brief as this conversation was -- it lasted under two minutes no less -- , I still keep the memory of that encounter in my heart, powerful as ever.
It happened on a friday afternoon, my then locker neighbor was leaving for good and not ending the school year. As he was cleaning up his belongings, he pulled out a certain comic book. Instantly, I noticed how he acted a tad bit puzzled after discovering this book. It seemed to me like it was the first time he ever laid eyes on it; as if somehow, unlikely or miraculously, this book got in his locker by mistake.
My neighbor and I never got close: it was not for lack of trying, but we only saw each other occasionally i.e. during the breaks or at the end of the day. Our conversations never went beyond those "hello", "have a nice day" or "happy weekend." Accordingly, that day was not going to be any different. I wanted to ask him about his 'mystified' reaction after taking that book out of his locker but instead, nicely, I just questioned where he was headed to. With a big smile, he announced he was off to a new school. I wished him the best of luck and I was about to go when suddenly, he stopped me, handing me that book with the cover faced-down: "Hey, do you want this? I do not need it anymore. You'll like it. [Awkwardly smiling] But when you are done, when you do not want or need it anymore; maybe you could pass it on to someone who would... will need it."
This time around, I was the one who looked like she got her head banged. What the...? I did not have a clue what he meant. Still, I reached for it. Gratefully, I accepted his gift. It was only on the way home that I finally flipped through my new possession, quickly realizing I did not even take a glimpse at it because of my confused state. Immediately, I got goosebumps simply by reading the title "No suicide." Now I really did not understand what my locker neighbor meant. Nevertheless, I got very intrigued about my new comic book. I soon found out that it was the work of different artists and authors, telling stories, real or fictional, on the suicide topic. Each story gave different perspectives yet had one thing in common i.e. not telling the reader why he/she must not commit suicide, but rather why one shouldn't. Each memoir was thought-provoking as well as eye-opening; some of them were an extremely sad read but others were even funny and sweet. I cried a little bit every time, I finally got what my locker neighbor meant. This book is for those who love and live life to the fullest. But primarily, this masterpiece needs to be shared with those who are 'lost' and wish to leave this life behind. The subject of suicide affects every single one of us; having suicidal thoughts can occur to anyone among us, even to the wisest or most courageous one. Like these artists and writers, he wanted to pass on this message. And I would do the same.
The years flew by, and I was taught one principal lesson on "how to help someone in need': learn how to listen, the doorway to understanding. The following might sound like a silly observation, nonetheless, I still regard it as a fundamental matter since it gave me some insight on other relevant facts.
One of those victims -- one of them, every forty seconds -- is someone we know. Although we might not be 'directly' attached to the person, it is someone we read about in the papers, a person we saw in the news on television. It was a neighbor, a colleague, a student, a famous actress, a housewife. The victim was the friend of a friend, an aquaintance, my friend... Contemplating further on the subject, I came to the conclusion that the 'weird' thing about suicide is that it involves people from all walks of life. Sometimes, most of the times, at all times, the suicide is a bad surprise. "But why? He had problems and so did she but, but, but... He was rich! She was pretty! He was healthy! She was smart! They had everything, they had it all!" In effect, we grasp that there is more than meets the eye, and I wonder whether it's because we miss or on the contrary, underestimate the signs. Did we see it coming? Could we have done something... anything?
Come across a fragile soul. You are a fragile soul. People have a tendency to say that you should consider yourself lucky to be here and possess that when they comfort and wish to reassure a mate. But fact is: when your 'good' self is having a very difficult time dealing with inconsolable sadness, loss, anger, depression, excruciating pain, insecurities or the lack of well-being altogether; that heartfelt message never gets to you. It is not a reproach, it is the truth. Any good friend or loved-one -- anyone -- will most probably tell you that your situation is not the end of the world. Moreover, they keep on repeating how you should be happy because there are people who are not as lucky as you are. You should be happy: true, very true indeed. Yet why, why, why doesn't that thought enlighten you, even the slightest bit? I believe I know exactly why. Reality check. There will always be people who find themselves in a worse state than you are and there will always be others who have it better than you. But the reason why such honest words do not lift your spirits up is because, no offense intended, it doesn't matter what they feel. It is not a reproach, but truth is you have the right to be selfish at times and be sincere about your very own feelings: you got your own thing going on. What matters is what's in your heart right now: what you feel is really, genuinely, truthfully what you feel. You do not mean to exaggerate or to dramatize, but you are restless, listless, depressed, suicidal. Notwithstanding the fact that you appreciate the effort -- you know that those popular, cheerful sayings are true, come from the heart and he/she/they mean(s) well -- but comparing your issues to those of others does not delete your own problem in the process. You still feel bad. In the end, what you really need is, point-blank, someone to be there and see through you.
We, as friends, loved-ones or another helping hand, need to take that last factor in mind. It is crucial to place it in the equation for this will help us become different listeners, better listeners; and that will simultaneously make us be of greater help to someone who's crying for support, offering him/her the solutions he/she requires. Come across a fragile soul. Take the time to listen to him/her. And understand him/her. Do not judge. Do not minimize, even less patronize. Remind him/her that there is no problem too small, there is no emotion too absurd. Speak truth and learn the language of love. These are a few exceptional ways to help him/her see a brighter day, it may be enough to add another day. "Lending a hand is like lending a great book. Without being truly aware of it, you will probably end up giving more than what the reader even wished for." - Milka liebt Erdbeer. Save a life lesson, perhaps.