Sharing suicide survivor stories

Tonight, I was doing research on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) survivor outreach program, which led me to their blog that oftentimes has guest posts. Many of the guest posts that are shared are by everyday people just like me. We’re not necessarily “experts” on mental health; we’re not doctors or researchers or academics, but we are people who have been affected by suicide of a loved one. And that story is worth sharing because the truth of our human experiences is worth sharing.

As I was reading the criteria for the survivor story guest posts, I immediately was turned off. A couple of the things that were mentioned that immediately made me realize that I did not want to contribute to this: 1) it insisted that you not use the term “mental illness” and instead use “mental health.” I’m not sure about what you think, but depression is an illness. I don’t care how you want to spin that, but IT IS AN ILLNESS. Depression is not something that you just get like a mood swing or a cold and get over as a part of everyday mind or body health. Bucketing it as “mental health” absolutely does NOT highlight the gravity of the issue at hand. And then there’s the one I got really frustrated with: 2) You cannot mention how the person ended his life. You can only say that he died by suicide. Really? Are we really in a culture today with required “TW / trigger warnings” and snowflake culture that we cannot just accept reality, that life is painful and is going to have a lot of excruciating details that we all just need to face? It’s like we have to be so “progressive” as to focus on things that do not matter and make those things matter instead of focusing on the truth and truly moving forward. The argument to not include this information is that the method of suicide would in some way glorify the suicide and then encourage others who are in the process of suicide ideation to use that particular method to end their lives. This is absolutely ludicrous to me.

And to be frank, part of the reason I think I get as much money and as many donations as I get is because I try really hard to paint a vivid picture of what Ed went through, of my feelings at the time.. of my feelings today. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t black and white. I want it to be as crystal clear as possible. Why? Because I want you, the reader, to know exactly how fucked up the situation was. I want you to know how much anger and physical and mental pain I felt when I found out my brother was dead. And I want every person who even reads half of each year’s fundraising story to know how the entire world failed my brother, and I will never stop being angry about it.

If you can get through reading my story and not feel something, you must be some feelingless robot.

But that’s the point of even sharing a story. To evoke feelings. To share a sense of humanity. To inspire action. And you cannot do that without giving details. It’s just not enough to me.

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