Warning: This post doesn’t contain the usual vomit-inducing humor or memes. It’s also not meant to induce pity upon me or anyone involved.
I just want to share a story and an important message, and kill the “kill yourself” trend.
The other day at work, I passed by two gentlemen I’ve had no interaction with in the past. One is a promising associate attempting to rise up the management ladder, and the other is a newer associate whose name I don’t know. I nodded and greeted them. The overhead conveyors roared as usual, and I thought my salutation lost in the noise.
Then the overhead conveyors stopped and I heard the respected associate mumble, “Kill yourself.”
The other person giggled. I stopped in my tracks and turned around. They continued on their way, oblivious to the nasty mental daggers I was flinging at them.
I knew it was meant to be humorous, loosely based on my social media experience. It’s a new-age expression, a response to incompetent or pathetic remarks, statements, or images. But that’s not how I took it.
Call me a prude, but I find it offensive and tasteless. It’s insensitive and dickish, and I pity those who think they’ve pulled off the most sarcastic, wittiest one-liner in the history of man when they say it.
Never mind that he used the expression incorrectly or that I’m probably blowing this instance out of proportion.
I wanted to bring out my old supervisor skill set and unload my fury on them because I’m passionate about the subject of killing oneself for other reasons.
(If you believe suicide is a cowardly or selfish act, then I advise you to stop reading this blog post right now. There’s a time and a place for everything. This isn’t the time or the place.)
Suicide isn’t a subject I enjoy talking about because it brings back memories and feelings I’d rather ignore. But given the audacity of people to poke fun at it, however crazily one might interpret an expression such as the one mentioned above, I felt compelled to write about this devastating act.
Maybe you knew someone who committed suicide.
Maybe you’ve only heard about someone who committed suicide: A friend of a friend, a family member’s friend, a friend’s spouse, one of your own family members, strangers who make the news, celebrities like Robin Williams.
Maybe you’ve thought about committing suicide yourself.
Maybe you’ve even attempted it.
Regardless of your proximity to this subject, the facts are eye-openers.
2013 Suicide Statistics
- Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in America
- About 41,200 suicides were reported
- Suicide claimed one person’s life every 12.8 minutes
- 2013 saw the highest suicide rate since 1988, at 12.6 suicide deaths per 100,000 citizens
Think about that for a moment.
While you were on your 15-minute break at work, someone in this country took their own life.
If you live in a city of 100,000 people, chances are 12 of them committed suicide that year.
Suicide was a more common cause of death than homicide, chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis.
Let that sink in.
The Story of Joe
In 2008, I applied for and landed a management trainee position at work. While still in the training phase, I had the pleasure of working with an amazing, intelligent supervisor who took me under his wing and led me toward success.
Joe was a retired veteran with a multitude of military accolades, including two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars with Valor, and induction into the Audie Murphy Club. At times, he was crude and rough around the edges, the product of a highly disciplined upbringing and a robust military experience.
Most of the time, however, he was polite, caring, and down-to-earth. Funny as hell. A grammar nerd like me. Willing to share his knowledge and help others succeed. He was a realist, a straight-shooter, and didn’t sugarcoat anything.
And when it came to the ladies or superiors, he oozed charisma.
From 2008 until 2011, I had the privilege of working with Joe in multiple departments. Though our ideals clashed at times and our tempers flared, we always walked away and returned the next day with the past behind us. He had a lot to share, and I had a lot to learn. He quickly became my mentor, and I was grateful.
In 2011, his personal life became riddled with downfalls, and his outlook on life plummeted.
During this tough period, we became even closer. We started hanging out outside of work. He had dinner with my wife and me several times, and I visited him often at his apartment for hours on end. He was in a dark place, but I knew I, his family, and his friends could pull him through. He’d become like an older brother to me, and I wanted to help him shrug off the darkness. He would’ve done the same for me.
And though I know now nothing would’ve changed the outcome, I will always wonder if I could’ve done more.
On January 13th, 2012, I went to work like any other day. When I arrived, I noticed Joe wasn’t there. It was odd. He was the type of guy who’d come to work a couple of hours before his associates’ shifts began so he could catch up on paperwork and side projects. Especially with the personal issues going on, he’d spend more than 12 hours at work to combat his own mind.
It bugged me, but I brushed it aside. I felt he’d had a breakthrough the day prior during a conversation in my office, and there was no cause for concern. We were at the end of our annual audit and expected a short work day bereft of any actual work. If he missed it, he wouldn’t miss anything important.
An hour rolled by. I texted and called him. No response. Another hour passed, and still no response. We had nothing else to do, and my boss allowed me to leave early. I had made plans to stop by my cousin’s place and figured I’d pay Joe a visit afterward.
I was still several blocks from my cousin’s pad when my phone rang. I glanced at the Caller ID. It was one of my bosses. I figured she needed me to return to work for some reason or other, so I answered the call while driving.
“Jonathan.” Her voice was strained. A few seconds of silence ensued. “Are you sitting down?”
Dread slithered within my belly. I dismissed the strange feeling. “Sort of. I’m driving.”
“You need to pull over.”
“Please, pull over.”
That’s when my heart stopped thudding altogether and my stomach dropped out like I was on an elevator.
I knew my friend, my mentor, my surrogate brother, had committed suicide.
For an hour after that call, I spoke as if in a daze. I stared off into space, ignoring the normal human emotions swirling within my mind. It wasn’t until I left my cousin’s place and drove by Joe’s apartment that the shock wore off and I started bawling like a baby.
That entire weekend, I remained a zombie. I’d accepted the reality of the situation and chose to bury it deep within myself. But I wanted to remain strong around my family, his family, his friends. I wanted to be the rock, like I had been when he’d (justifiably) erupted in anger at work.
I shed the majority of my tears only after my wife and son went to sleep and I was left in quiet, lonely solitude.
When I returned to work that Monday and was asked to announce the news to my team members before rumors ran rampant, I cracked under the pressure. I ran into my office and closed the door and blubbered like a newborn child for a good hour or two. Maybe more.
The funeral was rough. There wasn’t a moment during the ceremony that I wasn’t crying. When “Taps” was played on a set of bagpipes, I lost it entirely.
Weeks passed. It didn’t get any easier.
A year passed. It seemed to get harder.
Two years passed. My colleagues and I still couldn’t bring him up without shaky voices and watery eyes.
It’s now been three years and about two months since Joe passed. I can finally speak about him without my voice cracking or my eyes tearing up. I can now smile in reminiscence when he’s mentioned at work.
But I still can’t control my emotions when I visit his resting place or recall the details leading up to his death.
And when my wife and son go to sleep and solitude settles beside me, I try to stay busy and keep the sorrow at bay.
I don’t always succeed.
Just as Joe did, I won’t sugarcoat anything. If you’ve been affected by suicide, it won’t be easy to keep marching on. You’ll have days where memories are warm and fuzzy, and other days when there’s not enough Kleenex in the world to sop up your tears.
It gets better, but it also gets worse. The best thing to do is keep living. Live in the moment. Soak up every second you can spend with your spouse or children, friends or family.
Keep your chin up and conjure the happy times, and never let such memories fade.
For anyone contemplating suicide, please think about those left behind. Regardless of how deep your despair may be, please reconsider your options. Seek help if necessary. (Please scroll to the bottom of this post for resources.)
Even if the darkness has enveloped you in the most obsidian of shadows, someone out there cares for you. Someone out there will miss you.
Someone out there will be devastated if you leave them behind.
Suicide is no laughing matter. Even when using it in a humorous manner, it can hit those left behind like a beanbag blasted from the barrel of a shotgun.
Show some class. Stop with the “kill yourself” shit and jump off that sad bandwagon while you can.
Maybe you’ve never had to deal with suicide, but hundreds of thousands of people have.
And regardless of where you think this conclusion is heading, I wouldn’t wish for anyone to have to deal with the aftermath of such an event.
Stay tuned. There’s more randomosity coming soon.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please reach out. Before it’s too late.
National Suicide Prevention Line
24 hours, 7 days a week
Department of Veterans Affairs
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
You may also visit:
–A psychiatric hospital walk-in clinic
–A hospital emergency room
–An urgent care center/clinic
Or you may call 911.