By: Deb Bryant
Blue lights pulsating outside my window. A knock at the door. Neighbors concerned looks. Devastating news that leaves an aftermath of pain and heartache, I could have never imagined. My question, “Why?” goes unanswered. Thoughts of, “If only”, and “I should have noticed the signs” are haunting me. Friends don’t know what to say. Comfort is evasive. Closure is not an option.
Most of us don’t give suicide a second thought, or we think it will never happen in our circle of friends and family. Evidence shows that talking about suicide helps prevent it, but what if your loved one hides how they’re feeling and won’t talk about it?
This was my experience. On the outside everything was great. He laughed, helped others, showed up for work; just bought a puppy, and made vacation plans. All the external elements of a normal daily life, but what was hidden inside was a dark, insidious plan to end the pain he didn’t share, and you couldn’t see.
He was a husband, father, son, brother, uncle, neighbor, friend, veteran, coworker, and police officer. There was no note, no explanation, no goodbyes, just an ending that made no sense. Another statistic and a tragic news story that left a devastated family trying to cope.
More people died by suicide last year than the year prior – a trend that has continued for nearly 20 years. On average, there are 132 suicides a day and in 2021, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) reported an estimate1 of 1.7 million suicide attempts.
There is no single cause for suicide. It most often occurs when hopelessness and despair take over a person’s life. Warning signs include isolation, withdrawal, sleeping too much or too little, aggression, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
It’s almost as if we are at war with an unseen enemy. We have the tools to fight—suicide crisis hotlines like 988, mental health treatment centers, support groups—but we’re not reaching everyone. We don’t know how many lives are being saved, but we know we need to do more.
Losing a loved one to suicide has been a challenging recovery for me and my family, but one filled with caring mental health professionals and everyday people who encouraged us to keep moving toward a future of hope and restoration. From these mentors, I learned to open my arms and heart to others who are hurting and need to talk. I soon realized there’s an army of walking wounded, and I wasn’t alone.
September is Suicide Prevention Month. Join me and countless others this month by putting on your battle gear and being an advocate for mental health in your home, community, church, and at work. Don’t wait for a knock on the door or a phone call, look around you and pay attention to the warning signs—and talk, ask, and get help.
You can make a difference—one person at a time.