Today, my son thrust his phone in my face as I was in a virtual meeting. I glanced at the screen and saw a picture of Stephen "tWitch" Boss and his wife, Allison Holker. Trying to pay attention to my meeting, I half-heartedly said, "That's nice, son". He said, "No Mom. Look at it. He is dead." No, that inattention will not get me the Mom of the Year Award. But, isn't that the case for most of us, much of the time? We are so busy that we sometimes forget to pause long enough to process what is right in front of us. This is a reminder to slow down. To hug your loved ones. To extend grace to yourself.
Two days before he took his own life, tWitch was in a video, in front of a Christmas tree, smiling and dancing in unity with his wife. Two. Days. Before. We can never truly know what is happening inside of someone else's head or heart. Suicide is hard to explain. We often wonder Why? Could I have helped? What did I miss? We try to understand something that is inexplicable. I did not know tWitch. I mourn for him nonetheless. I cannot imagine what his wife, children, friends and family are experiencing right now.
According to the American Psychological Association:
Frequently suicide occurs in the context of a major depressive episode, but it may also occur as a result of a substance use or other disorder. It sometimes occurs in the absence of any psychiatric disorder, especially in untenable situations, such as extreme or prolonged bereavement or declining health."
The APA provides multiple resources for suicide prevention and coping after the suicide of a loved one. My wish for myself and all of us is that we can hold on long enough to get help. To speak to our family. Our faith leaders. To call 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Something. Anything.
I confess that at dark times in my own life, I have had suicidal ideation. Lots of prayer, therapy, love and support later, I have tools that I rely on to help me hold on until things get better. Because things have always gotten better for me, even though that seemed impossible at my lowest points. I have learned to speak to myself in a gentle way after I realized that I often spoke to myself in a harsh way that I would never accept from anyone else. I have learned to journal or write letters (and burn them; no one needs to ever read those letters) to excavate hurtful emotions and thoughts. I have learned to pray when I have no idea what to do next, when I'm so hurt or ashamed that I cannot talk to another human being, I need spiritual intervention. I reach out and seek love and support from my family, friends and church community. I seek guidance from professional therapists and follow their advice on how to stop catastrophizing (in therapy I learned that I'm a catastrophizer. Who knew!?).
You may be wondering why I'm talking about suicide on a website where I typically talk about the workplace. Depression and other mental health concerns represent huge workplace issues. The person in the office or cubicle next to you may be moments away from a fatal decision to harm themselves. I want to normalize speaking about mental health, suicide, suicidal ideation. Yes, it can be risky. But, we are all worth it.