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(Links to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention)
I’ve experienced a lot of uncomfortable moments since opening up about my mental illness: talking to my family; going public about it as part of Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign nearly a year ago; publishing certain posts on my blog; releasing my book to the world – and especially sharing my book release video on social media; and of course, repeatedly putting myself out there when doing speaking engagements.
Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I stepped foot into my “safety zone”. As frightening as such experiences have been at times, I can truly say that the therapeutic benefits have made them all so worth it.
But I am about to embark on unchartered territory in the coming week. And I’m afraid, honestly. Right around the time I launched my new blog category “suicideMISSION”, a reader contacted me and shared his story about his mother’s suicide (adding that he was the one who found her body). A couple of weeks following this, another person touched by suicide approached me in person – this time from a sister’s perspective about a brother who took his own life, leaving a young family behind.
It was difficult to hear about these stories. My heart absolutely sunk, to be honest. I just couldn’t imagine what these types of experiences must have been like. But a part of me wanted to know – I needed to know.
I yearned to explore what could be considered as one of the most disturbing consequences of mental illness – not so much the act of suicide (which is horrific in itself), but even more tragic: the life-long burden that is imposed on surviving family members from the enduring torment of never being able to achieve closure.
Then a thought came over me: maybe it is possible for surviving family members of suicide to experience peace by helping them to discover meaning in their suffering. That is, what if by sharing their story it serves to deter other at-risk individuals from committing the act, and thereby sparing other families from such pain and suffering?
I thought that if I could capture some degree of depth with respect to these tragic experiences (i.e. from a surviving son or sister’s perception), just maybe this type of raw perspective might offer a reader enough leverage to step away from the edge when feeling like they’re losing out to mental anguish.
So as painfully difficult as it was, I asked – I asked them both if I could interview them and write about their experiences. I explained my vision which is to capture their uniquely tragic experiences with the hope of constructing a perspective so raw and painful that it anchors at-risk sufferers securely to the ledge – preventing them from stepping off if and when the urge arises.
Both agreed to an interview and sharing their story. For me, I am frightened because I don’t know what to expect. All I have is hope that their courage will not only serve to divert others away from this tragic path, but will enable these brave individuals to discover meaning in their suffering.
In the words of Viktor E. Frankl: “For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement…In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”