Trigger warning: suicidal ideation
Meghan Markle is a powerful and influential woman — an audacious, efficacious, and courageous woman. She has faced trials and tribulations most cannot fathom. While her life has been charmed, it has also been hard. But on Sunday, March 7, Meghan Markle revealed just how difficult things have been. During a two-hour long interview with TV personality and media mogul Oprah Winfrey, the duchess of Sussex revealed that, when pregnant with her first child, she experienced suicidal thoughts.
“I just didn’t see a solution. I would sit up at night, and I was just, like, I don’t understand how all of this is being churned out,” Markle told Oprah of the horrid stories about her in the press. “I realized that it was all happening just because I was breathing. I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially, because I know how much loss he’s suffered. But I knew that if I didn’t say it, that I would do it,” Markle said, meaning she would act on said thoughts. Markle admitted she would have tried to take her life.
Of course, Markle’s admission was stunningly brave. Despite awareness efforts, weeks, and campaigns, suicide is (still) highly stigmatized, and ideations are very misunderstood. That said, most praised Markle for her candor and vulnerability. Comments ranged from “we stand by you/with you” to messages of unwavering support. However, some shunned the 39-year-old. They criticized her and lambasted her, calling her “spoiled” and “attention-seeking.” They dismissed her. How could someone so well-off be so sad? And they minimized her struggles. Some said she was “exaggerating,” a “liar, through and through.”
And while Markle will likely never see these remarks — they are the comments of so-called keyboard warriors, one’s who simply like to shout into the void — others will see these words. Your friends and family will see these words. Hell, I (a two-time suicide survivor) saw these words.
I saw the laughing emojis and shrunk in shame because reactions like these are precisely why people do not ask for help. They are why I did not ask for help.
You see, I have struggled with suicidal ideations for some time. I have bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and PTSD, and one of the symptoms of the former is suicidal thoughts. On numerous occasions, I’ve considered taking my life. But I rarely talk about it. Despite being one of millions, I rarely ask for help, and that is because of comments like these. I am embarrassed and ashamed. I fear being neglected and rejected, and feel less than. I also worry what others will think of me if they know the truth about what really goes on inside my head. So I smile, at gatherings and on social media. I lie, answering questions like “how are you?” with a dismissive “good” or “I’m fine” and I act as I’m supposed to.
I wear a mask.
Like Meghan Markle, I play a role.
I am not alone. This sort of indifference breeds shame and blame. It keeps people silent. Mum’s the word. It is why the stigma surrounding suicide persists. Many do not talk about suicide because they do not want to be seen as dramatic or crazy. They do not want to be branded or dismissed. Author Elizabeth Broadbent tells Scary Mommy comments like these are “devastating.”
“It’s so offensive,” Broadbent says. “It makes me feel diminished.”
People do not talk about suicide because no one really knows what to say about suicide. The subject is (more or less) taboo. Like addiction, abuse, miscarriages, and abortions, it is an issue we do not speak about or discuss. But the stigma needs to end. There needs to be more sympathy and empathy. More love, compassion, and support. Because every time someone speaks their truth, someone else is given space to speak theirs.
So please, if someone tells you they are depressed or suicidal, don’t ignore them or shame them. Don’t question them, dismiss them, or doubt their intentions. Instead, ask them what they need — and how you can help. Listen to them; a little empathy goes a long way. And love them, wholly and completely. Because suicide isn’t a cry for attention. It’s a genuine ask for help.
If you or someone you know is struggling with feeling of anxiety, depression, helplessness, hopelessness, or despair, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line.
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