Speak Up

By Gisselle Hernandez, Features Editor

I imagined the sting of it, the biting metal slicing into flesh, ruby beads dripping down the fingertips and falling onto the white-tiled bathroom floor. I pictured the face of pure ecstasy that must have been on her face as she did this, plastered there as she felt this was the only way to feel release, freedom.

As I saw my friend’s puffy, red line already scabbing on her wrist next to me in class, I remember feeling so helpless, angry tears burning the back of my lids.

“It’s not a big deal, Gis. I don’t make it deep enough so don’t worry.”

My eyes scanned the similar pale scars along her other wrist, some peeking over her ankle socks and I felt like someone had punched me in the chest as anger welled up inside me.

How dare she? How dare she ask me not to worry? How dare she ask me to pretend I don’t see it as a “big deal?” And then I felt anger at the world. At making my friend think this was the only way to feel okay, to cope. At how many other kids feel this way, one in every 10 high school students to be exact.  And I have never felt this angry before.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month, and it’s one of the awareness months that tug a little bit more at my heart.  Throughout my life, I had always been faced with these situations. There’s something that snaps inside you when you look into your friend’s eyes as they beg you to not tell anyone.

To them, this is the only way they feel free from whatever nightmarish visions plague them. Because of this “trust,” you choose to say nothing, even if it happens again and again and worse every time. Even if after a while, it finally does become deep enough.

Last year, I wrote an article on the Walk of Remembrance the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Calloway County hosted in honor of suicide victims. I spoke with Pat Harrington for the story, who had lost her husband to suicide. She said one of the main problems with suicide is people try not to talk about it and high school kids have this “oath to secrecy” to not say anything out of respect for friends. But losing someone as a friend is always better than losing a friend to suicide.

Especially in college, I don’t hear people addressing the problem much. There are events in honor of suicide prevention, but people still swallow their feelings when those dark thoughts creep in or – this is a common one – pass off their anxiety and depression as a joke. People don’t pick up on it because of the humor in it, and that person ends up feeling utterly alone. It’s never, ever a good feeling when you keep telling yourself “I should have…” when it’s already too late.

Not just for this month, but every single time you are faced with a situation where you can say something, don’t try to be a “good friend” by keeping your friend’s “secrets.”

If you do, you might end up with no friend at all.