When a loved one dies, it starts the living on a journey of trying to understand the loss, and accepting it. At the end of August, I learned that an old friend of mine committed suicide the week before. Receiving this news was like having a psychic hole opened with a hard punch or kick, creating a sad and lonely vacuum that I imagine is akin to the feelings my friend had as she made the decision to end her life. While there are lots of messy, complicated ways to die that can make understanding and acceptance difficult, I've found this death by suicide is especially difficult to grapple with. It begs the question "why?" over and over again, and no matter how many answers one may glean, none will satisfy.
It's commonly believed that creative people suffer more from mental illness than anyone else, and while I'm not sure that is actually true, I do think our community is strongly impacted by depression and anxiety. This can make navigating our chosen field especially difficult, as the creative life is usually one of inherent instability, with no guaranteed keys for success no matter how hard you work, no matter what your talent. My friend was a gifted singer and songwriter, and I think her difficulty in achieving a stable and rewarding career had much to do with her downward spiral.
I bring this up as a way to create a moment of awareness for anyone reading this. We are all affected by mental illness in one way or another, and we live in a world where mental illness is often misunderstood and stigmatized. Asking, giving, and receiving help is all any of us can do when faced with suffering. While this can be the most difficult thing in the world, it can also be the simplest, and bring us back to who we are, and why we are here. The advocacy group National Alliance on Mental Illness asks people to pledge to have a conversation about mental illness as a way to disrupt the silence. You can check out their page right here. Changing the world can be overwhelming, but it comes down to talking and listening. Pledge to do both today.