If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. Dial 988 or 1-800-273-8255 for the Lifeline. Text HOME to 741741. Visit 988lifeline.org, nami.org, thetrevorproject.org, blackmenheal.org, therapyforblackgirls.com, borislhensonfoundation.org.
The grind. The hustle. The violent busyness of everyone, everywhere, doing every little thing. I’m tired.
We’ve normalized the pandemic tragedy we’ve been living these past few years. There was no time to process. We were in isolation, losing ourselves and one another. And then we were outside again, diving back into life, grasping for what once was or fervently reaching for what could be. Those masks we wore to cover our faces? We started to mask our trauma, too.
We just went, went, went. And this third year, it’s been like that moment after a long day you pushed through, when you get home and sit down: the weight of the heartache, the anger, the muchness of it all settles in your bones and covers you like a weighted blanket. We’re just now looking in the eye of chaos. Some of us are feeling it. Others are in denial. We are all wrestling with various degrees of grief.
Some of us can’t survive the sinking feelings we carry inside and try to hide. Suicide is a leading cause of death for children and adults in America. In 2020, we lost 45,979 people — about one death by suicide every 11 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Over a million people attempted suicide in 2020. A few million planned it. But over 12 million of us, according to the CDC, seriously considered suicide. We know the numbers are higher because a true American pastime is to suffer in silence behind smiles and hugs and things to do.
We’ve gotten it wrong when even our children want to end their lives. A study published last month in Pediatrics showed a startling surge in suicide ideation-related ER visits among Illinois children as young as 5 years old and as old as 19. Between 2019 and 2020, hospitalizations connected to suicidal thoughts increased 57 percent for youths.
Mental health is an individual journey. It’s more than that, too. Society undeniably affects wellness. How the world allows you to move is a factor. And we, as a nationwide community of all ages and identities, are unwell.
Our year started with the heartbreaking loss of civil rights lawyer Lauren Sampson as well as the devastating death of 2019 Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, who was also an attorney and TV correspondent. Too much of the conversation centered on how those so beautiful and successful could have ended their lives. Both were 30 years old.
When Stephen “tWitch” Boss died from suicide last week, most couldn’t wrap their head around how someone so joyful could have been in so much pain.
Check on your friends. Call the numbers. Get help, we said.
It’s complicated. Yes, show support and get support. It can save a life. Yet we can do all of those things and still find hope hard to hold on to. We feel a myriad of emotions minute to minute, often all at once.
Joy and pain are not independent. Beauty doesn’t ease depression. Success is rarely without struggle. In a nation that prides itself on being the best, one that teaches us to measure our worth in pounds of productivity, slapboxing with self-esteem is a side effect.
I often think of Sandra Bland and Kalief Browder. If the state strips you of your rights, steals your life, and dehumanizes you, is it death by suicide or a side effect of a nation that would rather value you as a hashtag than recognize your humanity?
We deserve to live. All of us. Every day we wake up is a promise of new possibilities. “We are possible” is my daily meditation for days when the the waters feel impossible to wade.
For Black people and other marginalized folk, navigating racism and supremacy has you grappling with various degrees of trauma. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among Black people ages 15 to 24 in 2019, as reported by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.
When you are born into a system of oppression, your existence becomes resistance and that is an emotionally exhausting way to live, no matter who you are.
Resources don’t come easy. And even if you have support, you don’t always have the tools to lean on your system in a country that so often defines strength by the power to push on rather than ask for help. America has often treated basic health care and financial assistance in the wake of economic injustice as something we have to fight and beg for instead of an accessible right to wellness in all facets.
Rather than making community care a lifestyle, the expectation is that we be strong, independent, and prioritize work over everything. Quiet quitting was never about shirking responsibilities. It was about boundaries — the idea that you do the work you were hired to do, the work you are paid for, and not the several other duties so many get saddled with to the point of distress.
America, we’re breaking down. Let’s stop pretending. Do you wear burnout like an overworn robe, wrapped tight? I do. We’ve gotten too comfortable in the hurt we hurdle as we run with anxiety and depression, unanswered e-mails, and blackout naps that come in the middle of to-do lists.
Our need to grind, to persist through the pain, to deny the trauma that inevitably comes with life but that was certainly compounded by the pandemic, is destroying us.
We are our first love story, our first revolution.
Hope isn’t easy. Faith isn’t always simple. But I pray you feel seen. Ending the pain doesn’t have to mean ending our lives. Help is hard but healing is possible. Continue to be here, please.
Correction: An earlier version of a graphic in this story contained an incorrect date when referencing the age-adjusted suicide rate. The rate was 10.4 per 100,000 in 2000.