When a friend and former classmate shared the Facebook post, I blinked a few times to verify that I hadn't misread his post. Then, as her name stood out, I blinked a few times more, rummaging through my head to attach a face to the name, because the face that came to mind didn't correlate with what I was reading.
My friend and I had graduated a few years back, and the woman he'd written about in his post was a part of our class. As members of the advertising/public relations program in our college, we were a tight-knit family, so any name deriving from that group sounds familiar to most, if not all, of us.
Yet, for a couple of minutes, I was bewildered.
According to my friend, this former classmate of ours had committed suicide. But I'd been around her, I had listened to her as she enthusiastically and confidently shared her class projects with the rest of us. She was beautiful, outgoing, motivated. She was ambitious, she had goals, she couldn't have taken her own life. It just didn't make sense.
Her death tugged at my heart, and the stream of questions flourished: What could've tormented her so much that death felt like her only option? Was there anything I could've done while we were in school? Were there ever any signs? What are the signs? These were the questions scurrying through my mind, and I could tell I wasn't alone. My former classmates were as much in shock as I was. They'd caught glimpses of the woman I too had perceived. Her life had undoubtedly come to an end much too soon, and it sparked something inside of us.
The friend who'd written the post sharing the news wrote about the pressures society places on us, causing us to base our happiness on material things and accomplishments, but who's there for us when we're having a bad day? And is it not okay to reveal, even to our bosses, that we're having a bad day? Why is it that we live in a world where emotion -- though insanely hard to share -- is viewed as a weakness, as opposed to a strength? Does it not take a great deal of courage to let out the truth, especially when the truth is undesirable?
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2013, in the U.S., 41,149 suicides occurred. That year, every 12.8 minutes, someone took his or her own life.
These thoughts caused my heart to sink even further, because this classmate's death hit close to home. Days prior to this, I had met up with my 16-year-old cousin. We've only just begun to get closer, and as she spoke, I could tell that whether she was willing to admit it to herself or not, she was battling depression. "People ask me why I'm sad, and sometimes I don't know why," she confessed.
"That's because people don't understand that things don't always have clear explanations. They just are," I retorted.
Still, despite having said these words, I'm having a hard time with the fact that a classmate I saw day in and day out is now gone... and none of us, despite being around her so frequently, were able to prevent it.
So, after hearing the news about my former classmate, I texted the very cousin whom I'd spoken to about depression not too long ago. I told her that I love her, because I do, but also because I know she doesn't hear it often enough. I told her that I'm here for her should she ever feel like she needs to talk. I said these words because I care, but also because losing a classmate made me realize that depression, like any other illness, does not discriminate. It does not care about gender, age, race, or economical position. It doesn't care that you've got a whole life ahead of you, that you've got big dreams, or that you're surrounded by people who truly love you. It blinds you in a blanket of hopelessness that you can't seem to get out of, and for some, that is the case.
I could sit here and contemplate the details that led to my classmate's death, but the painful truth is that a life was lost, a valuable life, and had we, as a class, as a tight-knit family, listened closely, maybe, just maybe we could've caught the signs. Maybe we could've said the right words at the right time, words as simple and concise as, "How are you feeling today?" and "You matter" because regardless of how you're feeling and what you're going through, you matter. You matter.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.