Recently I spent an entire day with a beautiful individual giving our time and raising money to a great charity organization. No one knew that as he was giving so much to others, he was the one that needed the help. Trevor O’Keefe was a decorated RCMP officer, he lived his life constantly giving to other people in need and pushing his personal needs aside. Corporal O’Keefe is one of countless first responders that are suffering from PTSD quietly. First responders are constantly witnessing horrific things and then expected to “suck it up” and continue with their everyday lives. Now that we are more comfortable with speaking out about mental health issues we need to bring the awareness to absolutely everyone regardless of occupation, race, gender, etc. “When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we’ illness becomes wellness.” First responders are constantly keeping us safe and making us their first priority but when it comes to their mental health no one is putting them first.
When I was in high school something tragic happened, a student named Kyle took his own life.
Our school community was devastated. Walking through the halls like zombies were numerous students who not only knew Kyle, but were close friends with him. I remember seeing a girl I know who was best friends with him in the hall the day after it happened. I could tell she needed comforting so I simply walked up to her and gave her a big hug, letting her cry on my shoulder. Another one of my close friends who knew Kyle very well and was devastated by his death. I made sure to let him know that I was there if he wanted to talk and gave him a comforting hug each time I passed him in the halls.
It was truly amazing to see our school community (students, teachers, parents) come together and support each other in this time of grief. All throughout the school you could witness students being comforted by each other. Counsellors were available for those who desired them, and the Chapel was open for anyone who needed space.
I only wish that someone would have been able to see that he was struggling. That someone was able to save him.
Kyle always had a smile on his face and appeared to be extremely happy. Students at my school began using the hashtag #smileforkyle and so many tweets were made that the hashtag was trending on Twitter. We all hoped that this would raise awareness on how serious and real suicide is. Each day we remind each other to smile for Kyle.
I attended a small rural high school about three hours west of Oshawa. When I think of a small high school like the one I attended, I think of closeness and simplicity. I think of a place where everyone knows everyone, where news travels fast, and where your prom takes place in the high school gym. Nothing bad ever seems to happen, so when it does, it hits the community hard.
Last week, the small high school I attended had to grieve the loss of a sixteen-year-old student. He committed suicide. I didn’t know him personally, but like hundreds of other community members, I feel the loss with a heavy heart. My brothers still attend the high school, and my mom still supplies as a vice principal there. I see friends on Facebook sharing his obituary with comments suggesting he was “always smiling” and was “always nice to everyone.” After a week of trying to make sense of the event, I decided to finally put my thoughts into words.
My dad called me the other night and told me how upset my mom was about this student’s passing, and how as a principal she always has the mentality that things can become better for every student. She said, only weeks before his passing, he was singing karaoke at a school assembly, to which he said “I didn’t think I had it in me.” From an educator’s perspective, this only seemed like progress. A student that was usually shy and uncomfortable was coming out of his shell, and was doing things that made him seem fearless. My dad then proceeded to tell me that when he was a teenager, he never heard of anyone committing suicide. In my short nineteen years, I can name four people. I can name four high school students that struggled so much with their mental illness that they decided to take their own lives, all of which had peers post things like “they were always smiling” and “they were so friendly to everyone” with a link connecting to an obituary that should not yet exist.
Losses like this confuse and frustrate me. I see so easily online the amount of support that is offered. Unfortunately, this support becomes so evident when it is too late. I’m not saying support doesn’t exist offline – it certainly does – but I’m saying that it breaks my heart to see the utmost support when it is too late. I wish that someone had recognized the hurt in each person lost to suicide before they were gone. I wish that instead of hiding behind a smile, people were real and honest about how they feel, and I wish the receivers of those messages only listened to understand and were empathetic. Again, I’m not saying this is always the case. I know a lot of people that express the need for support while dealing with mental health issues. I mean, UOIT’s Mental Health Services are always busy assisting a number of students. To me, that is excellent news because it means that people care about themselves enough to get help they feel they need.
I don’t know if I still have completely comprehended how I feel about writing this post. I think we will always be confused about suicide, and mental illness as a whole. I think overall, I want the experiences I have had as a community member who has witnessed the devastation of suicide on a community to help others. Please, please, PLEASE – if you ever feel lost, if you ever feel worthless, talk to someone. I have seen so often how willing people are to help a stranger. It’s human nature. We help one another. Look for the Campus Connected stickers on laptops, seek out the help of your friends, teachers, parents, whoever you trust; people want you around. I wish I didn’t have this weight on my chest. I wish I didn’t have to feel so sad for the family and friends of the boy who attended my old high school. I wish he knew how missed he is. I wish he knew that someone he never even met wishes he was still here.
I hope someday that all suicidal thoughts can be overcome. I hope all people will one day realize that there is so much more to life than what is happening in the moments you feel worthless. I hope someday, all people believe that the world wants more for them, and that there are so many people that want to help conquer mental illness.
I’m going to leave off with a quote by Phil Donahue: “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Please let people in. Let them help you if you feel you need it. No matter who you are, you’re too much to lose.
For Bell Let’s Talk day, as many of you know, the Advisory Committee ran a booth with speech bubbles to promote positive mental health and share words of support. Bell Let’s Talk Day is a significant day to me. I have struggled with my mental health for many years now, and oftentimes only the closest to me know. This time around, I thought I would change that and step outside of my comfort zone.
Last semester, I struggled with suicidal thoughts – it seemed that was all that occupied my mind. I let my best friend know, however their lack of care and support made things worse. I sunk deeper and deeper into my depression until I felt like there was no way out. However, with the help of a new course of anti-depressants and help from one of the counselors with UOIT Mental Health Services, I am in a much better place than I was.
I was making considerable progress until the middle of December, when I had a personal crisis and, at 1:00 AM, was the closest to suicide I had ever been. I had distanced myself from the best friend that didn’t care, and moved closer towards another friend. I called her, and she was able to talk me off the – metaphorical – ledge and calm me down.
Then, for Bell Let’s Talk Day, I finally opened up to everyone around me. On one of the speech bubbles, still displayed well into mid-February, I wrote about my suicidal ideation and the fact that I needed to reach out to help. I wrote my name and my faculty on the bubble, not that it mattered because I have a unique name and my campus is entirely for my faculty. But I did it. I put it out to the world that I am NOT perfect, and that I have struggles as well, as much as I like to put out to the world that I don’t.
Since then, I’ve had a couple people come up to me and talk to me, ask me if I was okay, and just offer their support. It’s really hard to talk about suicide, especially when you feel like those around you don’t care. And it’s even harder when you’re supposed to be someone who has their life together. But even us on the Advisory Committee aren’t perfect, and we all have our fears and reluctance to share our vulnerabilities. Sometimes though, you’ll find that opening up opens doors to so many more support networks and people who can help you.
** WARNING**: Possible trigger for some; please read with caution to your own mental health
Sometimes I’ll pass by someone on the street and they are just glowing with happiness and it makes me think, I wonder if they always look so happy… is that a reality people actually face? Where they can spend a day in happiness until something negative effects them instead of spending the day in sadness until something positive sparks some happiness… even if just for a few moments. Is it possible for some people to go a day, a week or maybe even their entire existence without seriously considering the option of suicide?
In this addition of Sing It Out, we will be taking a look at American rock band, Blink 182’s, Adam’s Song. The song was reportedly written after band member, Mark Hoppus, received a suicide letter from a fan who had committed suicide and was dealing with depression while on tour.
In another addition of Sing It Out, we are taking an in depth look at Rascal Flatts’ song, Why, which speaks about how a suicide can affect the people left behind and the burning question that we all have and wish we could have the answer to it.
According to a google search, self harm is the “intentional, direct injury of body tissue most often done without suicidal intentions.” A person who self harms will explain their behaviour as a way of dealing with situations out of their control and feelings toward difficult or painful experiences. Most self harmers attempt to keep it hidden, and it may also become addicting as a release for some.