During the winter holidays suicide is more prevalent than at any other time of the year. I would like to expand on the topic of suicide because it is taboo, rarely discussed and is treated as a dirty word such as incest or rape. The suicide rate among people of color is higher than any other race, with Afro Americans and young adult male suicides being higher than any other age group.
In my life I have had the grave misfortune to experience two suicides of people who were very close to me. I have also experienced a near fatal attempted suicide of a significant other, all African American men under 45 years of age. Very recently another relative attempted suicide by hanging. Luckily she survived.
Thoughts of suicide are often masked with smiles and everyday conversation. The conception of suicide is birthed in secret, conceived in ones mind and lingers there until attempted or carried out. Before it was no one’s business, then after the act suddenly it’s everyone’s business and everyone wonders why they didn’t see the warning signs. For me, there were very subtle warning signs.
The people who committed suicide were family members I never expected would take their own life. Education and awareness about suicide needs to be raised. Mandatory education beginning in junior and senior high school should be given. There should be more community-outreach services available.
We are in an area where we are able to speak freely about subjects such as sex, drugs and murder. Why is “suicide” the dirty word no one ever wants to discuss unless it’s in front of a therapist, or worse a mortician. There needs to be more action taken for those who contemplate suicide, more services and support groups.
Sometimes employment, housing or even compassion are the answers to the problems people face who contemplate suicide. The absence of love, compassion and humility can never be medicated.
Many of us don’t want to admit that at our lowest times in our lives we have flirted with the prospect of suicide, as though it were two warm arms waiting to hold us. Others live with the belief that to take their own life is honorable, or noble.
There is nothing honorable about suicide or the heartache you will bring to those who love you the most. People who commit suicide take a part of everyone they love with them when they leave.
In 1993 my childhood friend committed suicide by firearm. The grief and an anguish I felt was overwhelming. My brother’s suicide by hanging in 2013 devastated me. Both of those instances compelled other family members to consider suicide as an alternative to the physical, mental and emotional pain and turmoil that hung over all our lives like a gray cloud for what seemed like forever.
Suicide brings along with it an entirely different pain for the loved ones of the deceased. Not that any death is better than another. For me, I was left with no one to blame, or worse, no one to question or ask why? I just felt robbed of the opportunity to be a sister or close friend.
I am writing this with the hope of helping someone who is contemplating suicide. I have had my own moments of despair and have also contemplated suicide. My faith and prayers led me to reach out to someone. I have always sought help, and in doing so I have always made it another day, hour or moment.
My family, friends and loved ones are my anchor to the world. Because of them I often have to remind myself that someone, somewhere is suffering worse than I am and that my life is easy compared to others.
Some of the warning signs of those contemplation of suicide are: loss of a loved one, fear of the future, loneliness, mental illness, financial difficulties, feeling unloved/undesirable, hopelessness and despair, a suicide of a loved one, acquaintance or role model, being bullied, loss of interest in living, a wish to die, listlessness, sleep disturbances, weight gain or loss and headaches.
African Americans must realize we are the last of a dying breed. Our demise is primitive to so many. Although our instincts to survive are ingrained, the unwarrantable struggle is not only unwanted but intolerable to hundreds of thousands each year.
Suicide is so much more than throwing in the towel. Suicide is irrevocable and is the last statement so many will make in a time of desperation, despair and uncertainty.
Jessica Wright is an inmate of Shakopee Correctional Facility.