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#Suicide on the Brain

     Last week, a group of individuals from The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention donned their blue shirts and went to Good Morning America with the hopes of raising awareness of suicide prevention.  They were not rowdy, they were not offensive, but in spite of this, they were asked to leave by a producer because they were told people don’t want suicide on the brain first thing in the morning. I have not been able to shake this feeling of discontent since I heard about this. I’ve sat at my computer and tried to convey how hurtful this act was to those living with loss and/or struggle because of suicide. But, as it always does, my hurt came out in anger and I did not like the tone of my own voice.  I did not want to attack Good Morning America for what they did, but rather explain in a rational way why this simple act of preserving ratings was a very loud message that I cannot ignore. It is a message that so many of us that have either lost someone to suicide or struggle with mental illness hear far too much: “Stop talking, it makes people uncomfortable.” But, here’s the thing, I can’t stop talking because suicide is preventable. If we raise awareness about suicide and how to prevent it, if we open our ears and our hearts and listen to those hurting without judgment, if we stop telling people that their struggle doesn’t matter, we will stop losing lives to suicide. 
      That beautiful boy at the top of this post is my brother. Almost two years ago, I lost him to suicide. I’ve been told to stop talking about my brother’s suicide. I’ve been told it makes people uncomfortable. I’ve been told that my grief should be silent and for a bit, I listened. I stayed quiet. I kept it to myself. Just like I’ve kept my battle with depression and anxiety quiet my entire life. And then, I got sick. I was hospitalized. I saw my children look at me with a worry in their eyes that I still cannot think about without crying. In that moment, on the one year anniversary of my brother’s suicide, I vowed to stop listening. I vowed to let my brother’s story, my story, and the story of millions of people not lie dormant, blanketed by shame and discomfort.
     I understand why the producer of Good Morning America said what he said, really I do. I understand that ratings matter in their line of business. I get that suicide makes people uncomfortable. I get that people don’t want suicide on their brain first thing in the morning. I get that more than I can ever express because every day, I wake up and I know it is another day without my brother. I know it will be a day a family buries a loved one who took their own life. I wish with everything that I could wake up without suicide on the brain. But I cannot. I want to sit down with that producer and ask why they don’t consider rape, murder, kidnapping, bombings, the list of atrocities that I see first thing in the morning hard on my brain. A group of people in blue shirts are far less disturbing than hearing about another black man shot by police, another woman raped, another child dead in the woods. Those stories make me uncomfortable.
     This producer did indeed reinforce societal shame around suicide, but they also did something else. They reminded so many of us with #Suicideonthebrain why we still need to talk. This incident ignited the flames of so many, and as fires do, I have faith that this will grow. It will burn the fear of discomfort and pave new growth for awareness.  The path seems bleak and dark, but as each person raise their voice, more light is shed on suicide. Light always wins. Community, understanding, acceptance, and awareness will push the darkness out.
     For those with #Suicideonthebrain, I beg of you, keep talking. Keep throwing those matches in the growing flames. Keep adding light to the darkness.


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