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Aug15
2016

World Suicide Prevention Day: “And So I Kept Living”

By Jamie Tworkowski

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“U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High”

This was a recent headline in The New York Times. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the overall suicide rate in America rose by 24% between 1999 and 2014. In 2014, 42,773 Americans died by suicide. But this isn’t just a problem in our country. More than 800,000 people die by suicide around the world every single year.

The numbers are hard to fathom, and they don’t even begin to tell the stories. These are fathers, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, cousins, classmates, and friends. And millions more are sent to mourning.

Every day, we’re working to change the statistics. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Here at To Write Love on Her Arms, it’s become the most important date on our calendar. Each year, our WSPD campaign is built around a statement. Two years ago, we went with “No one else can play your part.” It was the most successful campaign in our history, a turning point for the organization. Last year’s idea was “We’ll See You Tomorrow‬.” Once again, the response was incredible.

For me personally, 2016 has not been easy. You could call it heartache. You could call it depression. You could call it the hardest year of my life.

A few months ago, standing inside an airport bookstore on a layover in Charlotte, i stumbled upon a book called Reasons to Stay Alive, written by a man named Matt Haig. i had heard of the book, i loved the title, and i’m a sucker for an awesome book cover. In that book, i found a friend.

Reasons to Stay Alive is Matt’s story of recovery from severe anxiety and depression. With complete honesty, he walks us through his journey: from nearly ending his life, to weeks and weeks of darkness, to finding healing down the road. Matt shares the worst of it. He writes about everything he feared and felt, and he shares the best as well. The book includes lists of things that helped him keep going and helped him get better. Upon reading the final sentence on the final page, i added a new title to my list of all-time favorite books. In a difficult season of walking through my own darkness, this beautiful book had been a guide, a deep source of encouragement, and a reminder that i was not alone.

Weeks later, when it came time to choose a statement for this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day campaign, our team looked at dozens of phrases and ideas. We looked at words that have resonated in the form of blog posts and tweets and speeches. There were lots of good options, but none of them felt quite right.

i went back to my bookshelf and pulled out Reasons to Stay Alive, wondering if the answer might be hiding in its pages. i decided to read the book again, this time searching for a few words that we could amplify, words that might start conversations and spark hope. i didn’t know exactly what i was looking for, but this seemed the place to find it.

Early in Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt shares the story of the day he nearly died. He paints the scene, the edge of a cliff just steps outside the door of a rented villa in Ibiza. Here it is in Matt’s words:

“I stood there for a while. Summoning the courage to die, and then summoning the courage to live. To be. Not to be. Right there, death was so close. An ounce more terror, and the scales would have tipped. There may be a universe in which I took that step, but it isn’t this one.

I had a mother and a father and a sister and a girlfriend. That was four people right there who loved me. I wished like mad, in that moment, that I had no one at all. Not a single soul. Love was trapping me here. And they didn’t know what it was like, what my head was like. Maybe if they were in my head for 10 minutes they’d be like, ‘Oh, okay, yes, actually. You should jump. There is no way you should feel this amount of pain. Run and jump and close your eyes and just do it. I mean, if you were on fire I could put a blanket around you, but the flames are invisible. There is nothing we can do. So jump. Or give me a gun and I’ll shoot you. Euthanasia.’ But that was not how it worked. If you are depressed, your pain is invisible.

Also, if I’m honest, I was scared. What if I didn’t die? What if I was just paralyzed, and I was trapped, motionless, in that state, forever?

I think life always provides reasons to not die, if we listen hard enough.

Those reasons can stem from the past—the people who raised us, maybe, or friends or lovers—or from the future—the possibilities we would be switching off.

And so I kept living.”

And so I kept living. 

There it was.

i ran it by our team, and then i wrote to Matt. i explained our annual campaign and asked if we could borrow his powerful words.

He wrote back that it would be an honor, and that he would be happy to help.

Last week, i asked him to tell me more about the words, about what they mean to him now, and what he hopes they might mean as we approach World Suicide Prevention Day. He offered this:

“I think the statement is just a declaration that life is not always going to be the same, that when we feel we are in the bad place we have to ride it out, because there will be many better times, many better versions of us, which we can reach simply by holding—no KNEW—everything would get worse. It didn’t. Depression lies. And I found beauty in life after I thought it had been made extinct.”

So here we are, a few weeks away from World Suicide Prevention Day. Our hope is that this statement speaks to you, that no matter what your day or week or life has been, you will choose to keep living. To use Matt’s words, we hope that you will ride it out and hold on, and we’ll add that you don’t have to do those things alone. People need other people.

As Matt offered, “Depression lies.” Suicide lies as well. Suicide is a moment that robs the chance for other moments—the story ends too soon. Suicide steals the chance of hope and help and change, the chance of healing and a future. Matt’s life isn’t perfect, but he’s glad to be here now. Things look and feel different today, and he is glad he stayed. i still know my pain, but i stay with hope to be surprised.

At the heart of this campaign is an ask, that you will keep going. That you will stay and fight. And not just fight but rest, and let others fight as you recover. We should win and lose together, for that’s the way it’s meant to be. That’s a life best lived.

Your story isn’t over. The air in your lungs is there for a reason. Let’s keep going. Let’s keep living.

And so I kept living. 

pack
Here’s how you can support the campaign:

Buy the World Suicide Prevention Day pack.

Each pack includes a shirt, a bracelet, 3 poster prints, a response card, and 15 info cards. These materials feature our “And so I kept living” design printed in orange, which is often associated with suicide prevention. All of these items are meant to equip you to talk about suicide prevention in your community. Use them as conversation starters, encouraging reminders, and informative tools to share with others. Finally, be sure to wear your shirt and bracelet on World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10)!

Shop Now

Fundraise for suicide prevention.

Help us challenge the stigma surrounding mental health by providing support and treatment for those affected by it. From now until the end of NSPW, every dollar raised through our Classy page will go directly to funding treatment and recovery.

Fundraise Here Donate Here

Join the conversation on social media.

Share your “I Kept Living” response card (download below) with us by filling out the response card and posting it online. Join the conversation and post photos using #IKeptLiving & #WSPD16. Be sure to tag @TWLOHA on Twitter & Instagram. You can change your Facebook cover photo and Twitter header image to our campaign assets. There will be specific ways to participate during National Suicide Prevention Week (#NSPW16), and we will share those with you as it gets closer.

Response Card Download

Leave a Reply

Comments (53)

  1. Jason

    Link to social media assets?

    Reply  |  
  2. Mary

    I need help….

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you for your comment.

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 if you live in the US to get connected with a free, 24/7 crisis counselor through Crisis Text Line. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at info@twloha.com.

      Reply  |  
    2. Kristen

      Mary, please read Claire’s reply and do one of those things. Call a hotline, or text Crisis Textline (I have before). I don’t know what is or has gone on in your life, but I hope you know you’re not alone. Nobody can understand completely what you’re going through, but there are people who can sit with you through your pain. I hope you get the help you need and deserve.

      Stay strong.

      Reply  |  
    3. Katie

      You are not alone. People need other people and we all want you to stay. I’m thinking of you, Mary and the battle is hard. So hard. Claire gave some awesome resources that will absolutely help.

      Again. You are not alone. You are not done. You are important.

      Reply  |  
  3. OhONeedIt

    I’m not gonna lie. I can relate to Matt’s initial thoughts that he’s trapped by love. There is something beautiful, but also heartbreaking in that thought.

    I’ve walked the hardest season of my life, and that season continues. My heart is shattered, and there are days I truly wish I didn’t exist. I suppose I should be grateful for those who love me, because plenty do. However, suicide would be an option. A viable one. I’m not actively suicidal, but in many ways, I wish I were.

    Here is a concern I have. How long will other people’s live be enough? If I don’t really love myself (I don’t even like myself most times) then how long will the love of others be sustaining? This can’t, simply can’t go on forever as it is. I cannot deal with a life that hurts like this.

    Reply  |  
    1. Amy Harris

      For me, the love didn’t have to sustain me forever. With help, and a lot of effort on my part, I was able to get out of that dark hole I call depression. It was an uphill battle, one that many times I look back on and don’t even know how I did it. It doesn’t last forever though, and there is help out there. The biggest way that I was able to change, was by changing my life. I went to school, I found a passion, I found a purpose. I literally put my entire being into creating a new outlook for my life. The more steps I took, and the progress I made, I realized that the depression was slowly fading. Having those people are wonderful to lift you up while you’re in the darkest aspects of it, and feel worthless. Once you start making headway on whatever path you need to make to get out, they no longer have to sustain you. You learn to carry on by your own will, and you see the small steps as actually being HUGE accomplishments. Celebrate them, and value yourself for achieving it. Slowly you start to see that you are a worthy person, just like everyone else, and you deserve happiness too.

      Reply  |  
  4. Leslie Telesca

    Been there many times,as well as my daughter. A permanent solution to a temporary problem. LIFE, it does get better!

    Reply  |  
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  7. Jasmine

    Thank you so much for your words. I plan to read this book as soon as I can get my hands on it. May God bless you as you touch other peoples’ lives.

    Reply  |  
  8. Lauren

    Are you going to do media downloads like in previous years? I work at a university counseling center and we have promoted your website, along with our university chapter of TWLOHA. We loved the pdfs for engaging students.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Lauren,

      Thank you so much for sharing our campaign! And yes, we’re going to upload those PDFs shortly.

      Reply  |  
  9. Amanda Williams

    I am School Counselor at a 9th grade campus & would love to share your campaign with our students! Do you have a school package available?

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Amanda,

      We don’t, but we do have a way to purchase bracelets in bulk. Will you please email merch@twloha.com with what you’d like to do for your school? They might be able to help you out with a larger purchase!

      Reply  |  
      1. Katie

        Hi, I am also a school counselor at a high school. I wish there was an educator section to your website. High school students are so familiar with TWLOHA and it’s mission and I would love to be able to share resources without having to tap the non-existent budget we have in education. Some .pdf files that we can share on our websites, free packs of info card handouts for school counseling offices, or maybe some “conversation starter” lesson plans would all be amazing! Connect with ASCA (American School Counseling Association), I’m sure they would love to create a feature in an issue of their monthly magazine. I love your mission and purpose and want to share it. There is so much potential for growth for you all in the education sector!

        Reply  |  
        1. Claire Biggs

          Hi Katie,

          Thank you for your comment. Would you mind emailing us at info@twloha.com? We’d love to talk with you more to see how we can get some free resources to you.

          Reply  |  
  10. Sofia

    This is helping me a lot.

    Reply  |  
  11. Isaac Gutierrez

    Fully support especially as someone whose support group is crumbling and at this point non existent. I’m still breathing

    Reply  |  
  12. Cheryl Landers

    I have ordered a suicide prevention day pack, and I will share it with my daughter. I have fought with depression, suicide, and self harm for most of my life. I know how endless and alone it feels. I know the fight. I still choose to fight. Over the years… #I Kept living. And I have begun to share my story with my teenage daughter to help her to have strength beyond what she can imagine. To know that she isn’t alone and we can fight together.
    Thank you for giving me the courage to tell my story. If I only help one person it’s worth it to continue living and hoping and fighting for every day.

    Reply  |  
  13. Nita

    I saw this just in time! Thank you all for all you are doing!

    Reply  |  
  14. Maria Villanueva

    I would really love to help set up a table at my university for such an event and would love to include TWLOHA. Can you tell me what I can do to help or if there is any material on the website I can print or get to pass out.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Maria,

      Will you please email info@twloha.com? We’ll tell you more about how you can get involved.

      Reply  |  
  15. Mel

    And so I keep on living and I’m here to say it did get better. I stumbled and doubted and hoped and cried but I kept choosing to keep living for one more day. And one more day after that and so on. I got help, worked hard, stayed on my meds. The days ran together to weeks to months and now nearly 11 years later I am able to tell you those days of doubt and pain are hard but worth fighting through. They will pass and you will have new, brighter moments. Focus on the moments and try not to overwhelm yourself. You can do it…choose to live for today.

    Reply  |  
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  17. Ronda McLean

    And so I kept living because God had a purpose for me. To help others with their struggles.

    Reply  |  
  18. Gabby

    So many books I wanna read already…they might have to be put on hold for this one. Lol. But I’ve never purchased a suicide prevention day pack….always been afraid to. Afraid of the questions asked by my dad when a package arrived. Or the conversation wearing the shirt might instigate. But I might get one this year. I don’t wanna be afraid anymore. 🙂

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      We’re here for you, Gabby. Thanks for sharing and for being brave enough to speak out.

      Reply  |  
    2. Rebecca

      I just bought one of the suicide prevention day packs as well and thought the same thing. Especially because I won’t be home when the package arrives. But mental health issues are so near to me and I am a passionate advocate for mental health as I have struggled myself. If this package the the shirt that comes with it, insights change, and sparks conversation, than that is a good thing. With awareness comes courage and with courage there is hope.

      Reply  |  
  19. RH

    Thank you for this amazing read. I work with adults in therapy with severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideations. I can see that they are either walking through Hell right now, or have been there long enough that hope just isn’t an option for them. I appreciate that this organization, among many others, as well as the thousands of individuals who choose to help walk those people out of Hell and into hope. Do you have any chapters of organizational affiliates in the Phoenix area? We are huge on community supports and introducing our client’s to outside resources they can utilize on their own. I greatly appreciate everything you all have done and are doing. God Bless you all.

    And to those who do not feel that hope or see that light – we are out here, we want to help. You are loved and we want to show you that love, and how deserving you are of a beautiful and fulfilled life. Please reach out, take that small step, just start somewhere. 1-800-273-TALK is an amazing place to start and get connected. Just ask. You will be heard. You are heard. We love you.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi RH,

      We’d love to talk more about things you can do in the Phoenix area! Would you mind emailing info@twloha.com with details about your work?

      Thanks for all you do!

      Reply  |  
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  22. Zoe

    Hi. I recently saw your movie with my daughter and it is truely amazing, haunting and true. My Dad took his own life 3 years ago and was found several weeks after he had taken his lfe. It completely shook my world. I have recently left a abusive relationship but sytematic failures tell me why I shouldn’t have tried to leave and why women do not leave this relationship. It is better to be with someone than to be totally isolated and have nothing.

    Reply  |  
  23. Rosemary Williamson

    I really love this! I have lost two friends to suicide, i met them in psychiatric wards when i was a teenager. Losing people who you really care about hurts but what causes me more pain now is not doing enough to look after myself and others. I can’t bring my friends back but by doing what i can in my own life and hopefully in other peoples’, i can at least know that i am doing something right and not giving up on the hope i had for those two precious people. When you lose someone to suicide, it is utterly dreadful and oh, such a shame because they could have gotten better and now they can’t because they aren’t here…how do you deal with that? …i still don’t know. But i know i can try my best to get better. Even if i still keep going backwards, at least i’m trying. I just wish that everything wasn’t so hard. I guess it all comes down to what i have believed since i found twloha in 2006, when i was 16: that it’s worth it. You just gotta fight…

    Reply  |  
  24. Bellla

    I think for lots of people, there’s hope in the fact others kept living. When people are sharing their #Ikeptliving stories, it helps others too.
    Thanks always Jamie and Twloha!
    God bless

    Reply  |  
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  26. Kimberly

    Is there a way to share the response cards on social media anonymously? I am a mental illness advocate but I do it anonymously through my blog and a fiction writing site. I like to remain anonymous and not use my Facebook account to share that I suffer from depression or am a _______ or have had thoughts of suicide due to the fact that I live in a very small town and I would lose my job as a teacher. However, I want to get involved.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Kimberly,

      We encourage you to share in whatever way makes you feel comfortable. If you’re not able to share publicly at this time, that’s perfectly fine! Your support is just as important, even if you can’t share it on Facebook.

      Also, we’re sorry to hear that you’re struggling with self-injury and depression. Please know we list resources here: https://twloha.com/find-help/local-resources/. If you’d like further help locating resources in your area, please email us at info@twloha.com.

      Reply  |  
  27. Shayna

    How do I purchase just the shirt and bracelet?!

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Shayna,

      Right now, the only way to purchase the shirt and the bracelet is by buying a pack.

      Reply  |  
  28. Bev Wolfinger

    For some reason I can’t get the response card to download on my computer. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. Nonetheless, I wanted to share that I came across a newspaper clipping today from almost 10 years ago (October 12, 2006) that I keep as a reminder of “The First Day of the Rest of My Life Day”. I was going through some difficult times, mostly that I had brought onto myself and had made decisions that would have affected me for the rest of my life. I woke up one morning and there on the front page of the newspaper was a picture that was clearly a message from God telling me not to do what I was about to do. I call that day the first day of the rest of my life day. I fell into such a dark hole and covered myself up in bed and there I stayed all day. My husband came home and took the covers off. He told me how much I meant to him, our daughters and many others. He held me and told me it was going to be okay. I started seeing a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with depression. I have been on medication ever since. It helps me to maintain my life. Six years ago this past June my family went through a horrible time when my older brother died by suicide. It was the most shocking and terrible thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. So while I was getting help, he was alienating himself from everyone who loved him and making a plan. No one had any idea that was what he was thinking. Guilt, sadness, anger and all the other emotions have had an impact on us all. I thank God every day that He intervened in my life. I wish that He could’ve somehow reached my brother but it wasn’t meant to be. The pain was too great for him and he is at peace now. As for me, I kept living . . .

    Reply  |  
  29. Alice C.

    I thought I was alone. Yesterday I fell hard back into my depression, I had been doing so well. I remember passing by the To Write Love On Her Arms, booth at Warped Tour in early August. I didn’t know it was for this, until I finally got the courage to leave from where my parents were and go up to it. Four words stood out to me “Your story is important” I looked at the young girl who was in charge of the booth and asked what their project/plan was. She explained it all, and throughout her explanation, I went through my pockets and found some money. I bought 2bracelets that have “TWLOHA” written out. Ever since I found that I’ve been meaning to search this. I guess since I had a breakdown yesterday. I love everyone who created this place, and everyone who is here. I want to buy the Suicide Prevention Day Pack.

    And so I kept living.

    Reply  |  
  30. YouAreEnough

    You are all wonderful and beautiful people! Don’t forget to be awesome!!!!
    People who care are out there, I promise you. ♡

    Reply  |  
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  35. sunny

    i have been feeling down and just ugg lately which i guess is still okay.. and every time i think about dying a small thought pops into my head “you’ll be another statistic, another white girl who couldn’t cope” truth is i dont want to end up just another statistic if I decide to die i want people to remember me as me not as another statistic

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Sunny. Thank you so much for reaching out to us with this. Our hearts break to hear that you’ve been struggling with not feeling okay, and with heavy thoughts. We want you to know first and foremost that you’re not alone. It’s okay to not feel okay. But it’s also okay to lean on others when you need it. You and your story have value. You have already shown such strength by being vulnerable and honest in sharing your hurt, and we see that. We see you. You have value, Sunny. You have purpose. You are a brilliant shining light, and we can see that. The world would simply not be the same if you did not exist. Please know that we’re here for you. We’re on your side, and we’re fighting the good fight alongside you. We want to be whatever help we can for you. If you’d feel comfortable, please email us at info@twloha.com and we can talk more there and offer you some encouragement. We believe in you Sunny, and we’ll be fighting for you every step of the way.

      Reply  |  
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