We’ve already shared why we chose the message “You Cannot Be Replaced” to represent this year’s National Suicide Prevention Week campaign. But one of the most meaningful things about this theme is encountering the many ways it has been realized in the lives of others. To demonstrate this, TWLOHA reached out to some friends of ours—individuals who at one point contemplated suicide—and asked them to tell us how recognizing their own irreplaceable qualities gave them the hope and courage to keep going. These are people of varying ages, backgrounds, and life experiences, each one possessing traits, dreams, and experiences all their own—and each one buoyed and empowered by the recognition of their unique worth.
When people see the words “suicide prevention,” it’s my hope that they don’t just see the words, they feel the stories. It’s my hope that we recognize for a second that suicide isn’t just about statistics or something medical; it’s about pain, and it’s about people.
Because we are all just people, and as such, we deal with pain. We deal with problems. And in order to move through our pain, problems, and the difficult seasons in our lives, we need support. We need community. We need love. We need other people. While we spend most of our lives in a race trying to separate from one another, in the end, it’s the sense of coming together that really matters most. That’s what has meaning.
As I ask you to consider the stories of the lives lost to suicide, I also ask you to consider your own story. Maybe you are feeling stuck in the middle of it. Maybe there is a lot of pain. Maybe life is really difficult right now.
Whatever your situation is, I encourage you to look at National Suicide Prevention Week not just as a week of awareness, but as an invitation to be honest. To get open. To look inside and ask a question we tend to avoid asking: “Am I OK?”
Just put it out there—to yourself, to someone you love—and welcome an honest answer.
This is an invitation to go beyond the words of “suicide prevention.” Feel the humanity and the heaviness of it. Recognize the significance of the stories stopped short by suicide. Consider just how significant you and every one of us are. And then, take a moment to hold onto four words—first in your head, and then forever in your heart: You cannot be replaced.
Kevin Breel, 19
Comedian, Writer, Speaker
I absolutely love the theme “You Cannot Be Replaced” for National Suicide Prevention Week. There is so much truth to it. Sometimes the truth is painful and hard—but sometimes it’s beautiful. This is a beautiful truth.
Almost four years ago, I attempted to take my own life. The pain was so great and the world was so dark, I couldn’t see another way out. I figured the people in my life would be sad for a little while after I died, but eventually they would move on. Of course, that’s not how I’ve reacted when I’ve lost other people in my life, but depression had taken such a hold on my life that I felt I was different and I wouldn’t be missed. Looking back now, I can’t believe how wrong I was.
Every single life is valuable and irreplaceable. I know how hard it can be to see that at times, but I came to learn that no one else could play my part in the world. I’ve also learned the same is true for everyone else.
Each story is different, and I can’t pretend to understand how everyone feels. But I do know what it’s like to feel worthless. It’s one of the most difficult and painful things I’ve ever experienced. If you’re feeling scared, overwhelmed, or if you’re just in pain, know you are not alone. Like many others, including myself, you can get the help you deserve and see that your worth overflows.
Emily Van Etten, 21
Student and Former TWLOHA Intern
I once believed the world would be a better place without me. I thought if I could only make myself disappear, people would be happier. I wanted to erase myself—and I couldn’t see any way to do that but through suicide. It was a darkness I thought no one would ever understand.
Yet, it was in this darkness that I eventually found a newness of life. I found acceptance for who and where I was in my pain and messiness. I found the grace of God that so permeated my life with love. I began to see a beauty within myself that was meant to be shared.
Because of this, I was able to start a non-profit in Rwanda that uses sports to help the most vulnerable children in the world find love and learn they are important. In turn, they have learned to love others, creating a beautiful cycle in which every person is infinitely valuable.
I am not more special than you. You have the same value and worth I have.
There are things we do and relationships we have which seem so trivial and small, they aren’t even worth acknowledging. But when you begin to see the beauty in the small things—the person who feels safe opening up to you, a passing smile on a hard day, an individual you truly care about and ache for—you will realize you are making someone’s life better. You will find this world needs you in it. It is when these small things are done with great love that amazing things begin to happen—and we are all capable of amazing things.
Brian Beckman, 28,
North Carolina, Oregon, and Kigali, Rwanda
Play For Hope Founder
“You cannot be replaced.” It took me 50 years to think those words may apply to me.
I grew up in a small town in Idaho where they do not seem to recognize depression, suicide, or abuse. They just sweep it under the rug. In fact, only recently have I been able to say aloud that I was sexually abused by a family member, from the time I was 4 years old to maybe 8. I was silent about it at the time because I didn’t understand, and the response would be anger toward me. I still feel mortified and embarrassed nearly 80 years later. And angry.
Growing up, that was how I learned to handle problems: with silence or anger. Neither method improves conditions or engenders respect for oneself and others. However, they do engender dissension and depression—which, for me, led to an attempted suicide when I was 46 years old.
Divorce followed later. After 28 years, we split as good friends, which was still very difficult emotionally and financially. Yet, I have come to believe things happen the way they are supposed to.
One day, a friend asked me to drive her to Boise—and wouldn’t let us go home until I’d signed up at Boise State University. So I had a yard sale to raise money, a friend found me a place to live, and my son helped me move. Three weeks later, at the age of 57, I was in class at BSU. Boise was and is magic for me. Positive psychological help was everywhere I turned—school, church, classes, meetings, new friends. And Boise represented a certain degree of anonymity for me as I worked 24 hours a day to learn to control my wayward mind.
I now know my mind is mine. Thoughts affect behavior, and taking control of them has brought me self-respect, blossoming friendships, peace, and all sorts of wonderful feelings. Today, I am happy. I’m proud of my family. I enjoy my friends. And I share my story hoping to share courage.
Betty L., 83
I am an Iraq War veteran—and I am a suicide attempt survivor. In November of 2010, I decided I wanted to take my own life, and came extremely close to succeeding. I ended up spending four days in a hospital in the ICU and Mental Health Ward.
That day, when I decided I was done, it didn’t feel like a “choice;” it actually felt like the only option to end the pain and suffering I was experiencing. And I’m not the only one who has felt this way. Today, military suicides are occurring at the highest rate in United States history. On average, 22 veterans and one active duty member take their own lives every day, and that is a low estimate. In 2012 alone, we lost more soldiers to suicide than we did to death in combat.
My advice to anyone struggling through any situation, whether military or civilian, is to find a purpose in life. The day I woke up in the hospital, I realized I had meaning. No matter how down I may get now, I always look at the good that I’m doing in this world. Today, I help save the lives of other veterans and active duty military members just by sharing my story. Now I know I have a purpose, just like everyone else does, and I can never be replaced.
Andrew O’Brien, 25
OIF Veteran, WYSH Project Founder
**After launching our World Suicide Prevention Day / National Suicide Prevention Week campaign, we came across the organizations You Can NOT Be Replaced ® . You Can NOT Be Replaced, a charitable organization located in Manasquan, NJ, is the owner of the trademark YOU CAN NOT BE REPLACED ® . You Can NOT Be Replaced ® grew out of a desire to inspire the youth in their area, where there have been several student suicides. You can learn more about You Can NOT Be Replaced ® at www.youcannotbereplaced.com. Emily Dayton, whose family founded You Can NOT Be Replaced ®, shared here how this work has impacted her community for the better.