It's Okay Not To Be Okay: Why Discussing Suicide Is A Way To End It

by Natalie Hardwicke

America is one of my favorite places to visit, and in 2014, I was fortunate enough to be in San Francisco with my friend. We did the usual touristy activities, like visiting Alcatraz and eating at fancy, Michelin-star restaurants that exceeded our budgets.

But one of the main things my friend wanted to do was get photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. So, we decided to take the Golden Gate cruise around the bay, which gave us a complete views of the structure.

My friend ogled at the architectural and structural masterpiece of the bridge as her camera clicked in repetitive monotones. It was only slightly muffled by her oohs and aahs, and the gentle lapping of the Golden Gate Strait against the side of our boat.

My experience of looking at the bridge, however, was somewhat different. There are two facts about this bridge that many people know do not know. The first is that this bridge is the most photographed bridge in the entire world, and it is one of the most photographed landmarks in the USA.

The second fact is that the Golden Gate Bridge is the world’s second most common suicide site, and this fact was the only thing going through my mind as I stared at the gigantic structure.

In the water a few miles ahead of us, I could make out the coast guard, patrolling the waters. I knew this boat was also responsible for collecting the dead in the water after their deathly plummets. When people jump from the Golden Gate Bridge, they hit the water at 75 mph (120 km/h).

Most die from the impact, but not all do. Some die from drowning because their "ribs [...] sternums, clavicles [or] pelvises" break from the impact. Others die from massive internal bleeding and collapsed lungs. And sometimes, although it is rare, people do survive.

But, the problem isn’t just in America. Suicide is a global issue.

Mental illness doesn’t care about your race or gender. It doesn’t care about your age or your religious beliefs. It doesn’t care if you live in poverty or complete decadence.

Mental illness can affect anyone at any time, and suicide is an epidemic.

Suicide takes more lives than car accidents. More US and British soldiers die from suicide than they do combat. More people die by firearm suicides than gun-related homicides.

But no one likes to talk about these facts.

Suicide, it seems, is a stigma that people like to keep under wraps.

According to the World Health Organization, one person worldwide dies by suicide every 40 seconds. That’s more than 800,000 deaths each year, and for every successful suicide, it is estimated that 25 people attempt it. In 2012, suicide was the world’s second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds.

Something is very wrong with the world when these statistics ring true. The saddest part about all of this is that, as a society, we can push for suicide to be 100 percent preventable.

Although the suffering may end for the person who takes his or her own life, the pain of his or her loss is transferred to the heartbroken and confused family and friends left behind.

We need to talk about suicide.

We live in an age where feminism is no longer fought and advocated for just by women. We live in a time when fights for racial justice are no longer left to those being oppressed. It’s time now that we all stood up and fought for humanity’s right to live.

We need to promote love, happiness and well-being. We need to say it’s okay not to be okay.

We are all connected to one another, and we are all affected by suicide. And whether you want to admit it or not, suicide is all around you. It happens in our streets every single day.

It is someone you know or a friend of someone you know. It is the stranger you pass by on your morning commute. It is the face in the crowd at a sporting event. It is your own inner monologue in times of despair.

We all need to put an end to the world’s most upsetting cause of death: the death of hope.

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. All you need to do to participate is ask someone if he or she is okay. It’s so simple, right? And asking this question could mean the difference between life and death.

The fight for suicide awareness and prevention is not — and should not be — reserved just to those suffering. It should not be reserved for the mental health professionals trying to help, or the bereaved who are left behind, trying to put their lives back together. Everyone has a role to play in the awareness and prevention of suicide.

This awareness and prevention also serves as a stock-take of our own behavior.

It seems that every time I go online and read an opinion piece, a forum or the comments of a YouTube video, there is hate everywhere I look. The amount of bullying and berating of others who are mere strangers is a disturbing state of affairs.

Negativity promotes negativity. Hate promotes hate. And your violent or aggressive words, both online and in-person, have consequences.

People are taking their lives for reasons like these, as well as many others.

This needs to stop. This can stop.

There is hope, and there is help. It is estimated that 90 percent of all suicides are a result of a mental illness that can be diagnosed, treated and effectively managed. This includes depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychoses.

If you or someone you know is suffering, please reach out. Help is there.

And for everyone else, ask a friend, a coworker or a family member if he or she is okay on September 10, and every other day that follows. Never underestimate the power of listening, or the power of asking a simple question.

You might just save a life.