Vail Daily column: Beacons for dark bridges
Long, long ago, I stopped halfway across a bridge over the Ala Wai Canal one night and looked at oily black water in the pale shine of street lights.
Why not just end it here, drift out to sea, bob along till sharks and scavengers finish their work?
A moment of contemplation, then … nah.
I walked on to the other side off to Waikiki, where I worked and otherwise carried on with my still-adolescent life at the time, outsized dramas of the age and all.
I suppose I might have qualified as one of the 3.7 percent of adult Americans who have thought about killing themselves in a 12-month period.
I didn’t talk about it, look for a weapon or ingest poison other than the usual too-much beer as a kid in paradise. I’ve been blessed — I say blessed, because fundamental optimism (or its opposite) seems to be a hard-wire issue in our DNA — to never quite believe things were hopeless or that I was helpless to adjust. At least not for very long.
Throw in that the poorest of us in this valley are among the luckiest people on Earth now and in the history of humanity, and it becomes perplexing that the chances of thinking about and completing the deed rise in resort places. Like here.
As with you, I’m sure, a handful of people I’ve known took the route of the permanent solution over the years. None of these were rational acts that I could tell. Just people living in a misery I could not share.
It’s easy to contrast this with everyone torn from us and their own cherished lives by disease, accident, violence or age even if that’s not really fair.
Maybe this is where the stigma and taboo against talking about suicide springs. Along with the pain of losing loved ones who killed themselves comes embarrassment. News reports most often leave out the manner of death when it’s suicide unless the person was in a public position, genuinely famous or carried out the act publicly. News organizations generally do this to avoid needlessly adding even more pain to the person’s family.
I don’t believe there’s higher purpose in identifying the departed as suicides, naming rape victims or otherwise outing people against their will in some grand moral statement about erasing stigmas. Our society simply isn’t there, and I don’t believe the journalists are the high arbiters of this anyway.
Let those who are ready and brave enough decide what they are willing to reveal. They should carry this torch.
This is what Mollie Fiore does. The executive director of our valley’s suicide prevention group Speak Up, Reach Out speaks openly of her own struggles with suicidal thoughts to help others.
Her story appears in an article about reducing suicide in the Vail Valley Medical Center’s new edition of the magazine Vail Health. The Vail Daily’s magazine division developed the magazine under the medical center’s direction. (It’s excellent, by the way.)
Ironically enough, as with other misunderstood stigmas, breaking taboos by talking and especially listening on a personal level are keys to helping people who struggle with suicidal thoughts.
Fiori and others are teaching adolescents to recognize symptoms of depression and signs of suicidal inclinations, and to get help. The lessons are valid for the rest of us, too.
I expect that we all happen upon people on that bridge, staring into the black depths, more than we realize.
We can help others get through bad moments across to “nah, I choose life” with just a little knowledge, and attention. Sometimes, just that bit of a beacon for someone can make all the difference.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2920.
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