September Is Suicide Prevention Month. Are We Going to Do Anything About It?

Trigger Warning: Depression, Self-Harm, Suicide

Every year, we lose countless family members, friends, and acquaintances to suicide. Every year, we "wish we had seen the symptoms." Looking back, we wish we could have helped. Every year, the same "we" writes off people's negative thoughts and self-harm as "attempts to seek attention."

To this "we," I ask: What about hurting one's self seems to be a way to grab your attention? What makes these attempts "attention-seeking," rather than genuine cries for help?

Throughout high school, thanks to my perfectionism, I struggled with depression and anxiety. Things only took a turn for the worse when this coffee-fueled insomniac (me) took the IB diploma and held herself to the same perfectionist standards. My average amount of sleep was roughly two to three hours per night, my average number of meals per day was probably one, and my average quantity of (black) coffee consumption was skyrocketing. I did not know how to cope with all the work, friendship dramas, and relationships at the same time.

And so I resorted to what a disproportionate amount of teenage girls turn to — self-harm. I could not see a way out of the constant anxiety and darkness. And I could not envision myself being able to deal with it all, so I engaged in a vicious cycle of self-harm. This cycle repeated itself every single day for more than a few months, and I had already covered my entire left forearm and started to cover the right one too. It went on until my hoodie was stuck because of my scrunchie, and my best friend saw the marks. Of course, she helped me reach out and ask for help. 

With oversized hoodies becoming my style, I had taken excessive measures to ensure nobody found out. And so when nobody knew, they would not refrain from commenting about how another peer was pretending to be depressed for attention. It was shocking, honestly, to see how someone's mental health, when they are alive, is just seen as a method of getting attention.

I got lucky, but not everyone is this lucky. Not everyone has a friend like mine. And everyone finds themselves in situations where they hear people dismiss self-harm, depression, and anxiety as attention-seeking methods. 

To the person reading this article, I ask you not to follow everyone’s example. I ask you to exercise empathy and to help others reach out before it's too late — before we lose one more person because they were too scared of what people would and do say.