In honor of Suicide Prevention Week (although it technically ended yesterday), I thought I would share a column I wrote for Central Michigan Life back in 2012. It’s about what it was like losing someone who I looked up to as a role model to suicide when I was just 10-years-old.
Gone too soon are words that play in my mind when I think of someone who was like another older sister to me and committed suicide.
I was 10 years old when one of my sister’s best friends, Patty, took her own life.
They had met through working together as orthodontists, and Patty became someone I came to not only respect but look up to. She was a role model for me.
I share this story, because after attending the new registered student organization Yellow Ribbon’s first meeting Monday, it made me realize just how many people have attempted or know someone who has attempted or committed suicide. I realized I am not alone in dealing with this kind of experience.
Being that young when Patty died was something I couldn’t, and still cannot to this day, wrap my mind around. As I was talking with other members of Yellow Ribbon, we discussed the stigma with suicide and the mental illnesses related to it.
Even though I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand why Patty did what she did, I know there must have been something deeper going on than what she told people up front, something she didn’t think she could get help for.
But I wish she had.
I hear people say, “Why can’t someone just get over it?” It isn’t that simple. I know from having friends and family with mental illnesses that it isn’t always easy to reach out for help and overcome, especially when it’s expected of them to just brush it off.
I think some people are afraid to reach out for help in fear of the person they reached out to not taking them seriously.
I have had other people in my life, aside from Patty, who have expressed feelings of depression or shared thoughts of suicide. Some have actually attempted it, and I wish there was more I could personally do.
I know all I can do is offer love and support. I am not a professional, so I can’t tell people how to overcome their obstacles, but I can guide them in the right direction to get the professional help they need.
I still wish Patty could have seen in herself what I saw in her — a beautiful, caring and smart woman who was appreciated and loved by many. I wish that at even 10 years old, there was something I could have said or done to make her change her mind. If she was here today, I would tell her just how much I admired her.
After the meeting, I was already looking forward to what is next. I can’t wait to see the work Yellow Ribbon does in spreading the message to have more open communication about suicide and its prevention.
After all, yellow is more than just a color.
Until next time…