“Mom, what does it mean when someone dies?” asked my 6 old daughter today, as she was enacting a fairy tale with her younger sister, where the evil character dies. “What do you think it means?” I answered with a question. “I guess it means there is nothing”, she replied, “you can’t talk, or walk, or dance, or hug anymore.”
This is how my daughter sees death. She is, of course, too young to know about suicide and such deep hopelessness one can feel to consider ending their own life. But she knows there is death, and she knows she can speak to me about it. My hope is that she knows, no matter what sparks her curiosity or what issues may arise in her lifetime, that she will always be heard and never have to feel silenced.
If everyone in the world could have that feeling, how different would our world be? The root of all hopelessness is silence, misunderstanding, and judgment. In our world, mental illness and suicide have become a taboo of sorts. We don’t feel comfortable to speak about it, and so we don’t. But the consequence of this silence is that people struggling with mental illness and suicidal ideation feel ashamed to talk about it. Because we feel uncomfortable to discuss it, they feel uncomfortable to seek the help they need – the help that might be so crucial in their most hopeless moments that it could save their life.
So my hope is that everyone who struggles will one day know that they will be heard and will never have to feel silenced. This is why on World Suicide Awareness Day on September 10th, my daughter and I will dance as part of Move Together for Hope, the movement to end the stigma of mental illness and suicide by raising funds to train volunteers in suicide prevention. My daughter and I often dance together. In a string of our everyday dances, maybe our dance on September 10th would to her look much like part of our every day. But I will tell her that this dance is special, and I will know it is so, because it is part of something that will give voice to people who feel silenced, who think about death as a result of their hopelessness which arose from feeling alone and misunderstood.
As my daughter sees it, death is when one “can’t talk, or walk, or dance” anymore. This is why we will talk, move, and dance, so that people who see death as their only option will one day feel secure in the knowledge that they are not alone, that they can speak out, and finally feel accepted and understood. Our dance may just be a simple dance to some, but to many others who have no voice, it is a dance that will help one day end the silence and judgment, a dance that may well be the first step in bringing forth openness, acceptance, and compassion.
For more information about Move Together For Hope, a virtual 5k movement to raise awareness about mental health and suicide, please visit movetogetherforhope.wordpress.com