Post entry by Chuck Murphree – YA Author – Speaker for Mental Health – Special Education in Prairie Du Sac, Wisconsin.
Chuck is the son of Elizabeth Ann Johnson-Murphree
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I have heard it so many times over the years. A friend calls in need, telling me they are at the brink, their depression and anxiety is overwhelming them, and suicidal ideation often follows.
These are men, strong, some fierce in their abilities, and certainly not fitting into any of society’s stigmas. They just can’t find a way to dig out of the dirty muck of life. Perhaps an event happened that pummeled them to the ground, leaving them bloody at the knees, barely hanging on. Whatever the case, they are at their breaking point. We all have one. Some of us are just fortunate to never reach it or even come close.
I talk to these men, telling them I am here for them, at least I try to be, but I have experience with this. I have lost men dear to me because they too reached the edge and decided to jump. I therefore know I can offer support. I can be a non-judgmental listener. I can share my stories to show them they are not alone, but most of them know that. It’s why they call in the first place. They know I have been to that dark place several times. The entryway to a personal hell where it seems like a rope, a leap, a trigger, a bottle of pills, will take away the pain.
When I recently received a message from an old friend, I became angry. Not at him. No! He is hanging on in a society that often is set up to test and cripple you. My anger was towards the silence. The never ending stigmas. I’m tired. Enraged. I’m saddened by it all because we keep losing people to suicide.
I believe we are making a mistake because talking about suicide makes people uncomfortable and there are many stigmas or guilt surrounding it. My favorite (insert sarcasm) is when people make the person feel guilty that contemplates taking their life by saying, “How could you do that to the people you love?” They like to think that they can guilt someone out of an illness. It’s harmful. Silence is harmful. Don’t you think the person that wants to die would take another approach if they were able?
I believe we are hurting our children by tiptoeing around the subject of suicide. I have been told in schools, sitting at student services meetings or with administration, “We don’t want to trigger anyone.” Well, I’ve got news for everyone, what we are doing is not working. In my community alone, there have been three young people who have killed themselves in the past year. I repeat, what we are doing, our silence, our not wanting to “trigger” anyone, is not working. It’s obvious. Suicide is on the rise. Anxiety and depression is on the rise. It’s time for frank, upfront conversations. People can handle it. Young people yearn for it. They want us to be real. They don’t want a bunch of adults trying to sugarcoat thoughts, ideas, and talk. Young people read into our bullshit. It’s harmful, not helpful. Real talk is needed.
I have written about mental illness. I have shared my stories so people feel less alone. I have been vulnerable for the sake of helping others. I have helped young people by being real, talking about things that would make some school social workers tell me that I was triggering them. Well, it doesn’t. Instead, I hear from them that they needed to hear what was said. They needed me to be real and upfront. They wanted the connection. Boys need to see men being honest and vulnerable.
Most of the time, I feel like my posts, blogs, writings, novels, are not reaching anyone. I feel like I am beating my head against the fucking wall, making myself dizzy, screaming out for anyone to hear in hopes of saving life. I’m exhausted! My first book was criticized for being too upfront about the subject of suicide. My second novel was criticized by some readers because they didn’t like the subject of trauma and sexual assault. What the hell do you think is happening in our world, especially to teenagers.
We are losing the battle when it comes to helping people survive mental illness. We do not have enough therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists to help. Doctors’ only solution is to put people on more meds, hoping to dope them up, masking the real issues. I am not anti-meds. In fact, I take anxiety medication. However, it is not the only solution. We must teach people how to build resilience so that they can live the lives they want and accept the pain with curiosity instead of terror. We need to teach them to work on the problem, build resilience, and not ignore the pain.
My head is sore from the imaginative wall that I am beating it up against. My fingers are bleeding from typing thousands of words, trying to get people to listen, understand, act, and raise their voice to stop what is happening to our society. I am fatigued because it seems like we just keep repeating the idiotic responses that are not working. It’s exhausting. Talking about suicide is not easy, fluffy talk. It’s tough, bare bones, hard talk that should make anyone feel uncomfortable. With that discomfort we will learn to speak the truth and actually take meaningful action.
I cannot stop being an advocate for people that are struggling. I cannot stop until my friends stop wanting to kill themselves. I cannot stop until my students look for a different way to display their fears and darkness besides taking their lives. I cannot stop because I have to speak up for all of those that are battling their minds, and all of those that someday will. No one, I mean no one, is immune to getting depression and anxiety, and no one is immune to one day waking up and questioning if life is worth living.
For now, know that you are not alone. Work on building resilience so that you can weather the storm. And, for all of you that think silence or censoring the truth because it may trigger people, realize that we have been spinning our wheels for years to no avail. Wake the hell up and take a different approach. Lives depend on it!