It's National #SuicidePrevention week, when you'll see lots of discussion about a harrowing reality -- Americans are now more likely to die by suicide than in a car wreck. Twenty-two veterans a day take their own lives. Suicide is on the increase, while deaths from other preventable disease are declining.
Until we begin changing how we talk about mental illness, our suicide rate will continue to climb. Shame, silence and stigma persist in the diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care of people suffering from mental illness. Until we move away from viewing illness as a personal or moral failing, we will not be able to impact this public health crisis. Until we acknowledge how common it is to suffer from a mental health crisis, we will lead people with brain disorders to believe they are unique and untreatable.
I wrote about my husband's struggle with mental illness and eventual suicide as a protest against silence, and as an antidote to the shame we felt as he battled a disorder we knew next to nothing about.
All the Things We Never Knew, Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness is a memoir, but it's also a guide for families in crisis, with dozens of resources to help you figure out where to turn for care and treatment.
Here are three other books that helped me understand suicide:
Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide, Kay Redfield Jamison
The Suicidal Mind Edwin S. Schneidmann
Why People Die by Suicide: Thomas Joiner
To go on living we need to feel that we belong to someone and that we are effective. We must, as a friend puts it, "have something to look forward to." But, we must also have hope that illnesses of the brain will one day be regarded as commonplace and treatable as an illness of any other organ. Without this hope, there is little reason to fear death. If you or someone you love is suffering from suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.