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A Reason to Stay

*NOTE: Real names of persons were not used except Berthia and Briggs.

She was 15.

Jane was only 15 when she decided to end her own life. One of her friends said, “There was no sign that she was depressed.”

Of course there wasn’t. Depression is a coward.

Leo was publicly humiliated at school that week, but when his mother asked him if he was fine, he lied. “I’m okay. I just need to rest,” he said.

Of course he wouldn’t admit it. Depression likes to hide.

Leo was 18 when he jumped off a building.

Kath couldn’t pay her tuition and was forced to stop attending school. She was led to believe that it was the end for her dreams.

Depression can convince you that when the worst of times come, it is already the end.

Kath was 16, a freshman at her dream school, when she drank poison.

Depression is a persistent, coward kleptomaniac. It keeps taking the truth about your situation, the hope in your future, and until it takes your life, its hands might never seem quite full.

Jane, Leo, Kath, and many other teenagers who committed suicide had three things in common: first, they suffered from severe depression that made death seem better than continuing to live. Second, they were all too young to deny themselves of a future. Lastly, at the final moments of their lives, they had thought of the people they would be leaving behind, but no one made them give suicide a second thought.

Suicide has become prevalent among the youth, being the third leading cause of deaths for people ages 15 to 24. We are more mentally fragile and vulnerable during those years, because our emotional resilience to hardships is as young as we are. People reach the point of contemplating on suicide when they think the world is better off without them.

But take Jane, Leo, or Kath’s story and compare it to Kevin Berthia’s story.

Berthia was 22 when he wanted to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge back in 2005. He could not take his depression any longer, so he stood over the rail, ready to leap.

It happened several years earlier, but Berthia’s story began like Jane, Leo, and Kath’s, with the four wanting the same thing: to permanently silence the voices in their heads.

Four stories, but only one ended differently because it had something that the others did not: a person that truly listened.

For Berthia, it was a stranger named Kevin Briggs.

Briggs was a California Highway Patrol Officer who saw Berthia at what he thought was the final moment of his life. After almost two hours of talking, Berthia went back over the rail and gave life another chance. Briggs asked what made him reconsider.

“You listened,” Berthia said. “You let me speak, and you just listened.”

Helping people who suffer from depression can be as simple as listening and being there for them when they need you.

Mentally ill or not, we all know how pain feels. We all suffer and know how much healing a person needs to recover. This is why we have every reason to be empathetic.

Confront someone who you think is suicidal. The loudest cries for help are often silent, which is why we should start caring now, not when it’s too late; not when you can hear yourself saying your friend was “too young,” like Jane, Leo, Kath, and many others whose mental illnesses pushed them to the edge.

Never underestimate the power of kindness and sincerity. They can resonate in a person’s mind the moment he contemplates on ending his life. They can be a person’s reason for staying. You might be the only thing that keeps them here.

It’s not just about stopping someone from committing suicide. It’s about treating people in a way that they get to live their entire lives without considering suicide as an option.

Start a conversation. Listen well. You are not their Messiah, but you can always help others realize their own strengths and be their reason to stay.

By Jameela I. Mendoza

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