Note: This comes out of recent events we are aware of but not personally involved in and a conversation I had with someone. The person I talked to is one of the sweetest people I have ever known and was receptive to my perspective as we talked. She did not know about my mental health journey. I am by no means upset with her; I just wanted to share my thoughts after this conversation.
A young man known by many in our circle of friends died by suicide earlier this week. This lead many parents to have to consider how and what to discuss with their children. In a conversation this week, a lady said to me, “I don’t talk to my kids about it. I don’t want them to even know it [suicide] exists.”
I was floored. Her kids are all in their teens and 2os. Without meaning to, I jumped on her.
“But it does exist. Kids need to know that. I live with bipolar disorder and while it is not right now, there are times suicidal ideations (thoughts) are part of the illness. They are a symptom of bipolar and other mental health issues. Kids need to know that. They need to know what it is and to seek help whether it is a one-time thing or part of ongoing their mental health concerns.”
She knew nothing of my history, my journey or my battles. To be honest, I share less and less of it openly. But today, I was reminded why I sometimes have to speak up.
Mental illness almost killed me. It almost tore apart my family, as it did this family earlier this week. I do not know this young man’s story, but I do know suicidal ideations. I know what it is to fight that battle with every breath in my body. I know what it is to fight alone and with others. I know what it is to have beat back the thoughts for now. I know what it is to dread their return.
There are many causes of suicidal thoughts and none of them are because someone knew suicide existed. We can not protect our children by never mentioning suicide or mental illness. We can not wish or deny it away. We can not cause our children to deal with suicidal thoughts by saying the word any more than we can make it disappear by never talking about it.
I am not telling you to spill out everything you know about suicide and every scary detail to every child–different ages call for different types and amounts of information. Choose wisely, but please don’t choose nothing.