Today is Bell Let’s Talk day, a Canadian social media campaign to raise money for mental health initiatives, advocacy and awareness.
It was more applicable to my day than I could have ever imagined.
I went into one village today where my sensory kiddo lives. It was weirdly busy and still, all at once. But not busy with people chatting and catching up with neighbours, or playing with kids. Busy in the sense that people had gathered, but had nowhere to go. Quiet. As we got off the bus, there was a large group of teenage boys, heads gathered closely together. No laughing, rough housing. It was like walking into a post-apocalyptic world.
One of the translators finally turned and in a hushed voice told us a boy in 12th grade died by suicide in his home in the village that morning, and that classes had been cancelled.
I looked at the people sitting on their stoops, seemingly searching for some sort of answer in the shattered pieces of their hearts. My supervisor told me that India has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. More heartbreak. I couldnt shake thoughts of the boy’s mother, and family, people I had ever met, forever changed by their son’s loss.
I put on my best “holding it together” face, went to see my sensory kiddo (who did AMAZING), bombed another assessment (whole other story) and made it back to the guest house without losing my composure. Barely.
Reading about the suicide rates in India when I got back painted a larger picture as to why teens and others, such as this young man, take their lives at higher rates than elsewhere the world. An article from suicide.org states that “the suicide rate in the 15-19 group living around Vellore in Tamil Nadu, India, was 148 per 100,000 for women, and 58 per 100,000 for men” (http://www.suicide.org/indian-teen-suicide-rates.html). Another article states that for every suicide, there are 20 other attempts (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/Increasing-youth-suicide-is-Indias-gravest-crisis-Sangath-co-founder/articleshow/52680285.cms).
Suicide in India was recently decriminalized (HUGE step forward; http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-takes-a-progressive-step-by-decriminalizing-suicide/articleshow/53667027.cms). Previously, people could spend up to a year in jail, and also be fined. Jailed for surviving, and in a country where there are huge extremes of economic disparity, someone who is already living in poverty is further disadvantaged by a monetary fine that they probably cant afford. In a country where suicide is illegal, someone who has decided that the pain of living one more moment is greater than the fear of dying, and attempts to die by suicide, they end up in jail. Not in a mental health facility, not receiving treatment or support for their pain and struggles. In jail. Punished further for living.
This is true in countless countries around the world. Factors, often beyond one’s control, including lack of mental health resources, align and people feel like they dont have a way to move forward, and that the darkness is less scary than the place they are in at that moment. And then the institutions that put them in that situation to begin with jail them, jailing their bodies while their minds are jailed by the demons of depression or other mental illnesses.
I have no words to describe the anguish that leaves me with. Where you can’t even cry because its sadder than tears.
Mental health is everyone’s concern. You. Your sister. Your friend. Your neighbour. Your boss. Canada is starting to have the conversation within our own boarders, but we have a lot of work to do. Suicide is the second largest cause of death in teens aged 10-24. Almost a quarter of people 15-24 die by suicide. That is too many young amazing brilliant souls we’re losing every day, every month, every year. Not to mention the the rate of death by suicide among Indigenous youth is an injustice we should be enraged by. Every single one of us. Its not “someone else’s problem”, its Canada’s problem and that means every person that calls themselves a Canadian. First Nation youth are 5-6 more times likely to die by suicide than non-aboriginal youth in Canada. 5-6 times. Numbers from 2000 estimate that First Nations male youth die from suicide at a rate of approximately 126 per 100,000 people, (http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/suicide-among-canada-s-first-nations-key-numbers-1.2854899) and that rate has only increased over the last two decades. There are a whole host of reasons as to why that is, and I encourage you to read more about the conditions on First Nations reserves, and the governmental policies that created those conditions. I am not in a position to speak for the diverse people that make up our First Nations populations, so seek out their narratives and perspectives online, in the news, on Twitter, anywhere you can educate yourself without having to take away from the call and more importantly, action for change. I am happy to talk about some of the ways I know of to do that, and explore other ways with you too. We can learn and grow together. Listen, read, reflect.
So today, and every day. Talk. “Fine” doesnt always mean fine. Ask. Listen.
Someone I hold very dearly shared an article with me, and others today, on social media. And I feel like Michael Landsberg puts it more eloquently than I could ever, when writing about his friend Wade Belak.
“If you were saddened by Wade’s death then here’s what you owe him; you owe him the belief in his pain. ”
Believe someone when they share.
To read the rest of Michael Landsberg’s article, check out http://www.tsn.ca/depression-and-my-friend-wade-belak-from-sept-13-2011-1.340782
To support Bell Let’s Talk please check out: http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/#EXT=CORP_OFF_URL_letstalk_en
Keep talking. Keep loving each other.