THE BLOG
12/31/2014 11:12 am ET Updated Feb 17, 2015

An Open Letter on Suicide: I Will Not Criminalize You

Laurent Hamels via Getty Images

There's a list of topics people are never supposed to talk about: religion, politics and death, among other things. There is another topic very near to my heart from this list that needs to be taken off and discussed. Suicide.

Suicide is rising at an alarming rate among millennials. For people ages 10-24 in the United States, suicide is the third leading cause of death with over 4,600 cases each year.

It's important for everyone to be educated on the subject, whether we're victims or not. If an issue like this has become so prevalent in our society, why aren't we talking about it? Once we've opened the door for discussion can we begin to understand and find a way to help our fellow humans.

The first step is to start taking the issue seriously. It's easy to be dismissive and blame dramatics for the alarming rates of suicidal behavior. It's almost shocking how little we've come to think of these warning signs. We dismiss them as cries for attention, when we need to be helping and listening. It's easy to think we know everything that's going through somebody's head, but the truth is we have no idea. We never will, unless we listen. Never meet someone's cry for help with judgment or lack of interest. It could be a matter of life or death.

We need to understand that suicide and depression create an altered perception, and it's very difficult to break out of it. People living with this perception on a daily basis need help, not doubt and dismissiveness. We are all a part of this world together. We're all brothers and sisters, and we need to start acting like it.

The second issue is our constant criminalizing of the issue of suicide. It's even in the way we say it. You don't commit suicide. You commit rape. You commit a crime. You are committed for murder. Don't punish people for altered perceptions and mental adversities they did not choose for themselves. Remember that saying, "you catch more with sugar than a stick"? You save more with compassion and outreach than isolation and labeling. The victims are not to blame. Just as you wouldn't blame a woman for being raped, you cannot blame a survivor of depression for their mental challenges.

If you ever have the time, Mark Henick gave a very thought provoking Ted Talk on opening the door for conversation on suicide. I highly recommend taking the time to listen to his speech, if not for the betterment of your self, then for the ability to get a first-hand look into the perception of suicide, and how serious we need to take it.

Survivors of depression and suicide need help. We don't need Facebook likes; we don't need retweets; we don't need ribbons pinned on backpacks; we don't need you to buy T-shirts. We need to listen to each other. We need to be supportive.

For those struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, know you are not alone, and people want to help. There is someone out there who understands you. I understand you. It might be hard now, but don't take a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Don't ever feel underserving, defective or hopeless. You are beautiful. You are an intricate part of a phenomenal universe, and you play a role in it.

It may not seem like it today or tomorrow, but you are here for a purpose. You are here for somebody. You are someone's child. You are someone's person. You are my fellow human, and for that I love you. You are beautiful. You never have to be alone, and there's always someone who will listen. I will listen.

Give me your burdens and I will give you my hope. Give me your fears and I will give you my strength. I will fight with you, because you are important.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.