The pain and outrage in my father’s voice was something I had never heard before, he choked up the words to tell me my uncle Peter was gone. He had died by suicide. This was August 2009. Within a six month time-frame I experienced the loss of three family members, all men. One to gun violence, one to suicide and one to colon cancer. In my heart I felt all three deaths could have been avoided. My uncle’s death hurt in a different way, death by suicide hits you in a place that is unimaginable.
September is my uncle’s birthday month and September 10-16 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Hence, I wanted to post a piece about suicide to help destigmatize mental illness and suicide. In 2009, through a grief and loss support group I learned about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Walk. Three months after the death of my uncle I organized some friends to participate in the walk, we name ourselves “Friends for Life.” Eight years later, with the same name, we are still walking in memory of those we lost to suicide.
Just a little bit about uncle Peter. He was loving, delightful and genuine. He traveled the world through books, but he blessed me with the interest to travel to the places he only dreamt about. He was probably the only person who truly “got me.” I am little strange, if you haven’t figured that out already. Uncle Peter was a weirdo, just like me. He made the best veggie chili I’ve ever had. His specialty spices were divine. This man even made jewelry. In my little world, he was brilliant. When I decided to study abroad in Ghana he knew more about the history of the country than I did and knew even more after I returned! His quirky personality is what made him special, but it’s also what made it hard for others to see the mental illness.
In most communities, but especially in the Black community, we don’t talk about suicide, it’s taboo. The fact that I wrote this post is making someone in my family uncomfortable. My belief is that keeping silent serves no one any good, we need to break the silence.
Every November my friends and I get together for the AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk. The goal of the walk is to hear others’ stories and to begin the conversation about ways to support those who suffer from mental illness. The other primary focus of the walk is to share lessons learned on how to heal the hearts of those who have lost loved ones to death by suicide.
If are wondering how you can help here are a few easy things you can do:
- Refrain from saying someone “committed” suicide and use the term “died by suicide.” Saying someone “committed” suicide doesn’t take into consideration that most people who died by suicide have a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness. An article by Kevin Karousou said it best:
Criminals commit crimes. Suicide is not a crime.
He wrote: That (committed suicide) is a term that needs to be expunged completely. I is inaccurate; it is insensitive; and it strongly contributes to the horrible stigma that is still associated with suicide.
- Join us for the AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk November 5, 2017 at Piedmont Park. The walk begins at 2pm. Click here to join our team or to make a donation.
- Be mindful of your “words.” How many times have you said to a co-worker “I could just shoot myself in the head or jump off this building.” Such comments are extremely insensitive, you never know who has lost someone to suicide.
- Take care of yourself. Depression is real. Don’t worry about being judged because you see a therapist. Trust me, whoever is judging is probably seeing a therapist on the low. If you or someone you know has suicidal ideations get help.
I miss my uncle dearly. I am not mad at him for taking his life; through my participation in AFSP activities I have a deeper understanding of suicide. Part of my healing process has been participating in the walk and hearing how others have dealt with grief. Also, because of my association with AFSP people have opened up to me about their experience with losing someone to suicide. Some times I am the first person they ever spoke to about their loved one dying by suicide. Helping others is my attempt to find meaning in the loss of my uncle. However, participating in the walk reminds me that there is a lot of work to be done on this issue.
For more information about suicide prevention please visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at www.afsp.org,
8 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Suicide”
80% of suicides are the result of depression. Teens, adults and all genders are affected. It’s past time to come out of the darkness. Thanks for sharing your experience about such an important, yet avoided issue.
All so true! Thank you for the comment and support!
The post was Amazing. You have said what a lot of people in the Black Community are afraid to say. Or ashamed to say the post was Excellent. As a Veteran of many Wars it was very helpful to me to read a post like yours. And to my fellow Veterans seek help it is out their, but it takes some one to take the first step and ask for assistance.
Thank you for the comment! We definitely need to have more discussions about this in the Black and Veteran’s community. Taking the first step is the hardest part. Later this month I am going to write a piece about that. Stay tuned!! Thanks for the support and words of encouragement. I really appreciate it!
The world would not be the same if you weren’t here. I know sometimes it hurts to get your feelings out and share. Sometimes you may feel so damn invincible, and all your hopes feel completely impossible. Ignored feelings like sadness and shame, take us to a place where we never feel the same. Find someone you can trust, to get your feelings out. Because without you here, the world wouldn’t be much to talk about
-💜 Sista Keachia
A few years back we lost a family member by suicide. No one ever talks about what happened and how her life developed to the place where she wanted to end it. I’m remembering her today, inspired by my good Social Work friend and sister @kc_afam
Thank you friend for always reminding me where the heart is 🌻
Keachia, what a beautiful piece!!! I could not have said it better. My condolences for the lost of your family member, I appreciate you sharing your story. I am thankful for you and our common interests and causes. Thank you for breaking the silence. Love……
Thank you for sharing. Tonight I will attend a memorial service of a friend who died by suicide It has only been a month and I’m still in struggling But just knowing with time comes heeling
Renita, sending you virtual love hugs tonight. The healing process takes a while and the process is different from when someone dies from cancer or old age. As I said in my post, learning more about the root to suicide and being a part of the AFSP community has helped in my healing process. I am here if you ever want to talk about your friend or need help processing your feelings. Love you! Thanks for your comment and for sharing!