Since March of 2020 three of my friends have ended their lives — two in the last 7 weeks. Three entire human beings who mattered, who meant something to their friends, family, and community no longer exist in this world.
The last two years have been extremely emotionally trying for all of us. Quarantine, masks, illness, job loss, racial tension, vaccines, conspiracy theories, deaths, Covid testing, finances, new variants, elections, gas prices, war…
In addition to the world turning upside down, many of us are in that middle place in life where we still have kids at home as well as aging parents who need more from us. We might be faced with difficult decisions in regards to their health or quality of life.
We’re no spring chickens, either. We wake up with aches and pains. We routinely schedule appointments for the most intimate parts of our bodies to be inspected. We look in the mirror and are often shocked at our reflection. “Who IS this person??? That can’t be me.”
Since the first of my friends passed I’ve been on high alert. Any time someone posts a vent, a prayer request, an emotional post, or “vague books” I worry whether this is a cry for help or their last goodbye.
No one knows what anyone else is going through in their minds, in their lives, or behind closed doors. Even the people who look like they have it all can be suffering in silence.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
What these tragedies have taught me is that even if you think you are unloved, you matter to someone.
Something that you see as an insurmountable problem today, will likely look like a mole hill with time.
Help is out there.
You are NOT alone.
You are not a burden.
There are friends out there who are willing to listen, don’t be afraid to ask.
If someone doesn’t have the emotional availability or headspace to lend an ear at that moment, it’s OK. Reach out to someone else. There is someone out there ready and willing to listen and help if they can.
People may not know you are struggling, or may not see the signs because they are dealing with their own struggles. Don’t misinterpret not asking with not caring.
If you are in need of a friend and don’t know how to reach out, try these statements:
“Do you have a minute to chat?”
“I’m not feeling great, can we talk sometime?”
“I don’t mean to alarm you, but I could use a friend to talk to right now.”
“I’m feeling overwhelmed and could use a chance to talk out my feelings.”
Obviously talking to friends doesn’t replace getting help from a professional, but friends can help talk you down from a sudden emotional crisis until you can speak to a qualified professional.
THERE IS A LIMIT TO WHAT FRIENDS CAN DO
On the flip side, if a friend has taken their own life, it’s normal to have some feelings of guilt. Could you have called more, reached out more often, is it because you didn’t remember to respond to that last text, or didn’t see the message until it was too late?
As long as you are not mentally abusing someone, you are NOT responsible for anyone else’s mental health, or lack thereof.
It is physically and emotionally impossible to reach out to every person you know every single day to check in on them, but if there’s a friend who you haven’t heard from in awhile, consider dropping them a line.
Finally, if you feel as though you have done all you can to help someone, they are not willing to seek professional help, and it is becoming an emotional burden to you, it is OK to step back from that role of armchair therapist. Consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support. They are available 24/7, and can help you if you are worried about a friend or would like emotional support for yourself. Your mental health is as important as anyone else’s.
Si usted necesita ayuda, Lifeline ofrece 24/7, servicios gratuitos en español, y no es necesario hablar inglés. 1-888-628-9454