Photo submitted by contributor Melanie who suffers from Trichotillomania, or compulsive hair pulling. She is a former environmental lobbyist of 30 years, who left Capitol Hill to pursue her dream of being a writer. She is nearing the end of her Masters in Writing program at Johns Hopkins University. Writing has been spiritually and emotionally healing for her, and she enjoys encouraging others to explore writing as a path to serenity and personal freedom. Melanie’s life has been touched by suicide four times too many, and she has feared for her brother during the past five years as he traveled through depression, anxiety, and PTSD. She encourages her brother and others to talk about their feelings, to ask for help, and to avoid isolation.
About this photo: “This photo was given to me by the mother of Heather Applewhite, a young woman I taught in Sunday school for six years. Heather took her own life in 2011, three years after her high school graduation. I remember Heather as a beautiful, spunky, talented angel, and never would have guessed she would go that way.
Heather’s mother Jane told me, ‘until the week before her death, Heather’s risky behavior was unknown to her loved ones as she had recently moved out of range of her support network. I found out after the fact that she had never shared with her roommates that she suffered from depression, much less that she was on meds. She took her life during a weekend when they were away. Heather put on a good, together-seeming front. She seemed so mature and responsible. There was so much that no one but her diary knew.’
Heather’s mom finds comfort in her diaries. ‘There’s lots of great stuff there, the best of which is the words she addressed to God. You see, I know where my baby lives now.’
To those struggling, Heather’s mom says: ‘Choose life, people! Tomorrow’s another day and you are so MUCH more loved than you know! I miss my baby girl more than words can express!’
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s a good day to educate yourself, because if you don’t already know someone who has taken their own life, the sad odds are that you will. The World Health Organization says that suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the world, especially among young people. The number of people who die by suicide every year exceeds the number of deaths from homicide and wars combined.
Warning signs vary, and they aren’t always obvious. Some keep their struggles a secret, some verbalize them. Here is a link to a website that discusses warning signs as well as how to help someone you are concerned about. When my brother was suicidal a few years ago, I used many of these talking points almost verbatim. They gave me confidence, and he tells me that when I told him, ‘Whether you believe it right now or not, you WILL get through this, you WILL feel better,’ it gave him the strength to make it through his worst depression.
If you or someone you know are at risk for suicide, please seek assistance. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
Please wear yellow today and/or light a candle in a window at 8 p.m. in support and solidarity, or in memory of someone you love.”