Tell Them

By Seamus KirstNovember 5, 2018

As a person who writes, records podcasts, lectures, and even performs stand up about mental health and mental illness, I often find myself in conversations with people from all walks of life. Some are those I’ve known a long time, while others are folks I’m just meeting. We talk about subjects that many could never imagine opening up about: depression, medication, therapy, surviving suicide attempts, and the loved ones we have lost. We discuss topics of conversation that I grew up experiencing, yet believing were too taboo.

In middle school, high school, and into college, I often found myself in a fight for my life as I struggled with depression and addiction. Between the ages of 13 and 22, I spent time in inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, emergency rooms, a psychiatric hospital, ambulances, and many offices of therapists. Safe to say, there were days I didn’t think I would make it through.

Despite all of the professional interventions—and the support of my friends and family—there were still so many moments where I did not think my life was worth living, and ultimately resorted to self-harm and suicide attempts. But that support and those interventions were necessary in keeping me alive.

Today, when I speak to groups about mental health and addiction, there are always questions about how to support the people in our lives who have tried to hurt themselves, or who we worry might hurt themselves.

The answer, of course, is complicated. Here’s what I tell them:

1. Always encourage them to seek out the help and services of mental health professionals.

2. Listen to your friend or loved one. Really listen to what they’re dealing with and acknowledge their struggles.

3. Reaffirm that you are there for them (as much as you can be).

From my experience, the last one is crucial.

When I used to feel suicidal, I felt so detached and numb. But having people vocalize their support—friends, family and therapists—made such a lasting impact, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

But once I began to recover from addiction and depression, I vividly remembered all of the times people had tried to intervene; all of their attempts at letting me know that I mattered. Over and over, they reassured me that things could get better and that I was loved.

Make sure those people struggling in your life know how much they matter to you—and then tell them again.

When you are in the thick of a depression, and feeling suicidal, it can feel impossible to even imagine how life can change for the better. But it does, and it will. Although life is almost always complicated and often trying, and although it might feel like the world is constantly knocking us off our feet for its own amusement, we have to find a way to remember that this life always has the potential to be beautiful and rewarding and funny.

The people I’ve met who talk about their struggles with suicidal thoughts and ideation and attempts, often tell me how glad they are to still be here. Because beyond those seemingly endless rough patches, they found support, healing, and even jobs, hobbies or missions that have fostered a feeling of self-worth.

So tell them to hold on.
Tell them there is hope.
Tell them that needing help doesn’t make them weak.
Tell them the help they deserve exists.
Tell them they are not alone.

Seamus Kirst is the author of the memoir, Shitfaced: Musings of a Former Drunk. You can follow @SeamusKirst on Twitter and like his page on Facebook.

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Comments (6)

  1. Charlene

    Thank you for sharing. My daughter died at 20yrs of age three years ago. I have been struggling a lot. I’ve noticed when people see that if I’m not myself they back off and think it’s about them. But it’s not. I try explaining a little of how I feel but they don’t really take it seriously. They misunderstand.
    Our daughter’s (and ours) experience with the healthcare system wasn’t very good. They told us she wasn’t suicidal. Other community supports weren’t supportive either. It really makes me lose faith in what’s out there. So I have to keep my own chin up. I hope one day that through posts like this people will be better educated about mental and emotional deterioration and how much we need each other.

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  2. Christina Shepherd

    Thank you TWLOHA, again, for helping me feel supported on a very difficult day.

    Reply  |  
  3. Ali

    Thank you. I’m recovering from an ‘almost ‘ suicide.

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    1. TWLOHA

      We are so glad you are here, Ali. We know how difficult life can be. So many of us struggle, but we believe that help exists and we should never feel ashamed for needing it. Thank you for inspiring us to continue doing what we do.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  4. Catherine

    I wish that were so. I have struggled with depression for so long, I don’t know any other way. 20 years ago my oldest son took his life by suicide. He was 20-years-old. Four years later my older sister also took her life. Because I am the ‘strong one’ I keep going, but I wish for that one person (besides my husband) to be there. Some people I have reached out to have never replied. I feel as if I am a bother to the other people who have helped because I never get better, plus they have their own struggles to deal with. It is hard for me to open up about my struggles and everyone thinks I am strong when I’m dying inside. I see a therapist and am on anti-depressants. Nothing seems to help. While I don’t think I’d take my life, the thought is always there. Here again I am here because of other people and not wanting to disappoint or hurt them. My whole life is pleasing others and doing things I don’t like because of what other people expect. Some days I’m resigned to that and other days I wonder why I can’t get better. Even after 20 years I miss my son so much. I am told I need to concentrate on the good, happy memories, but every time I think of him, even the happy times, I start crying because he isn’t here. I have three other children and two wonderful granddaughters whom I love so much…why does the hole left by my oldest son overtake everything else in my life? Thank you for a place to say this.

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    1. TWLOHA


      Thank you for finding the courage to reach out. We are incredibly sorry for your loss and how suicide has impacted your life. It’s encouraging to know that you are taking care of your mental health through medication and counseling, but we understand that sometimes you need more. Please know that your feelings are valid and that our entire team is here rooting for you. It’s OK to miss your son. It’s OK to mourn his absence. Grief is a part of life, and you are allowed to feel the way you do.

      We are so glad you have a family and kids and grandkids around you, but please know we are also here if you ever need some extra support or a safe. space to talk. You can email us at [email protected] whenever you need.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
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