Four weeks ago a regular in one of my classes stopped me in the locker room. She had a semi-stricken look on her face, and she proceeded to tell me her daughter's best friend had just committed suicide 3 days prior. Her 16-year-old daughter's 16-year-old best friend. AND that her daughter would be singing at the memorial service the next day. She was worried about her. I knew instinctively the daughter would be fine, that this was something she had to do. Then I paused and asked my friend, "did you know my brother killed himself?" You see, so many of my friends do and I guess I assumed she did, but she said No!
I was grateful for my sibling's insight. I asked if the girl had any brothers or sisters, because in the cast of suicide survivors they can get lost amongst a parent's suffering, especially a mother's. I suggested she rally the mommy troops in her community to keep checking on the left-behind sister.
A week later I got a call from my partner. One of her close friends was at the hospital on suicide watch, as he'd tried to take his life earlier that day. A very upsetting 8 days or so ensued as she and his other friends tried to contact family and help as they could. The good news is he's alive and in a residential treatment program getting the help he needs.
The week before Thanksgiving, a high school pal posted the news of his best friend's suicide on Facebook. He's heartbroken at his loss, and based on the musings of those left behind, it sounds like yet another instance of the oldest suicide cliche there is — a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
This year it seems we've heard a lot about gay teen suicides. Gay or straight, teens commit suicide more often in politically conservative areas. The most common age group for suicide, however, is ages 40- 59, and men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
I love the holiday season, but it can make me miss my brother. We often read about stressors around this time of year, so talk to your friends and family. Really talk. Listen. Don't make a game face when you need an ugly cry. Ask for and offer help. And most of all, treasure loved ones and your life. Many are suffering silently, and your light could be that which makes a lasting impression.
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