The recent suicide of Robin Williams is tragic on so many levels. Many have written reported and commented on the details regarding his struggle with depression compounded by his recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. My heart breaks for Robin and his family and I cannot begin to imagine what they must be feeling right now. I do not wish to add further comment to the circumstances surrounding Robin Williams death, but needless to say a life lost to suicide is always tragic.
This phenomenon is not isolated to Hollywood e-news. When we look a little closer to home we see that at least six Australians end their lives every single day.
That’s 42 every week.
183 every month.
A whopping 2190 people take their own life every year.
I am not a therapist, counselor or health professional. I am not qualified in the formal sense to dish out advice to those who are really struggling (incidentally if that is you please stop reading and contact your nearest health professional or helpline). But for the record I find it heartbreaking to think that anyone should feel so helpless, hopeless and worthless that they would want to end their lives. I am not ok with suicide and I’m not about to accept that this social scourge cannot be different.
You see I have stood at the graveside of people who have ended their life. I have also found people who were in the process of attempting suicide. I have attended the funerals of young people for whom it became all too much, and also visited with communities and families who are dealing with the reality of this devastating occurrence.
No matter which way you look at it suicide is all too common in our culture and the effects are far reaching and devastating.
It seems that as long as life exists there will always be people who want to end it on their own terms. But… what if it didn’t have to be that way? I want to suggest that there are some simple words that can make the difference between life and death. Three powerful little words that can be a pivot point toward freedom a and a gate through which healing can be sought.
If you are ever conflicted about your existence, especially to the point of thinking that it’s not worth living I want you to remember these three words. Say them out loud, to others and to yourself. Say them louder, again and again if you think that others have not heard you. And keep saying them for as long as your life depends on it. The three words?
I N E E D H E L P
So lets start with – ‘I’
Humans have been asking ‘Who am I?’ for as long as they have existed. For the person that is finding life especially difficult this question plays like an iTunes track on repeat. The dulcet tones of negative self-speak ring louder and louder the longer they’re left unattended and at the centre of this script are the core questions of personal identity, value and purpose. Whilst there are many variations to the words we might use, in one way or another we are essentially all asking the same few questions.
W H A T A M I L I K E ?
We can’t help but compare ourselves to others as we endeavor to better understand the self. This is not all bad, however when we do this we risk missing the incredible beauty, creativity and capacity that exists within each individual. Perspective is useful, but measuring our own sense of self in comparison to others can be risky business. Inevitably we begin to notice the best of others and weigh it up against the worst of ourselves and ultimately we can begin to take on attributes of others that are not indicative to our true self. The result of this is this? The I (that is you) dies a little bit more each moment until you are left with very little.
I’ve addressed this more thoroughly in my previous short video post Create or Copy, but for what it’s worth,
“You are a full colour one-off original, be careful not to become a second rate grey-scale version of everyone else.”
W H A T A M I W O R T H ?
I do not believe that personal value is as subjective as many would argue. In my humble opinion every life is priceless because it is a life – your life, my life and every other person on the planet. We fight for life because we know that life is valuable. People, governments and corporations spend billions of dollars on health care and biomedical sciences, because life is valuable. A rational healthy human exhibits a desire to live and will do everything they can to preserve that life and the lives of others around them, because life is valuable. You are valuable beyond measure, even (some would say especially) when you don’t feel as though it is true.
W H A T C A N I D O ?
If your basic premise is that I don’t matter, then it follows that what I do does not matter. This could not be further from the truth. Every person has a contribution to make to others around them and therefore the world at large. Part of the problem is that we frequently confuse our purpose (and therefore our meaning) with the expectations of our culture. I’ve heard it said that the grand narrative of our culture is this:
You WORK… in order to ACCUMULATE… so that you can CONSUME… then you DIE.
That’s it. Nothing more nothing less. Kind of depressing if you ask me.
Even those who conquer this pattern of living still struggle with their own sense of self. Note where and with whom this post began!? Some of the most competent, wealthy, and successful people on the planet are the most desperate, lonely and lost. It stands to reason that here has got to be a better way. If it is true that we crave the opposite outcome for our lives, then perhaps there is good sense in a counter-cultural approach to living. What if we flipped this way of doing-life on its head?
That is rather than simply ‘working’ we pursue our true V O C A T I O N.
Rather than earning just to accumulate money and possessions we are G E N E R O U S with our lives and our stuff.
Rather than consuming as much as we can we could endeavor to C O N T R I B U T E to the needs of others and the world at large.
And perhaps then at the end of our earthly existence we don’t just die, but we are far more likely to leave a lasting L E G A C Y that continues to have a positive effect long after we’re gone.
Now that sounds like a life worth living. Not easy, not trouble free, but certainly meaningful and a far cry away from the devastating place of ‘I don’t matter’.
At our best we know that there is incredible value in I. We generally believe that I matter, that I am unique to others and this is good. We inherently know that I am valuable, that I can and do make a positive contribution to others and the world at large. We know that I can live a fulfilling and purposeful life.
But when this script changes so does our overall well-being. We lose our sense of identity, value and purpose and at that point we are not left with much. At our worst we begin to think that I am not worth fighting for, that I am a hassle to those around me and that I may as well not exist. The I becomes inconsequential and irrelevant… Heartbreaking.
We need to recover the value of I and in doing so address our existential crises through a lense of hope rather than a lense of despair. So next time you find yourself pondering the question ‘who am I?’ and its many variations, remember:
“I am valuable beyond measure.”
“I am worth the effort to live a full and healthy life.”
“I can do whatever it takes, whatever is needed, for as long as it takes to get there. And that is one of the best contributions I can make to this world right now.”
If the I seems less than valuable to you right now please hear this – the I matters… and by I… I mean YOU.
You are valuable, you are wanted, you are loved, and you need to be here. This is why you must speak up, say it loud, say it again, say it even louder – I N E E D H E L P .
Those three simple words may just save your life.
In part two of this three part post I want to address our NEED for experiencing positive connection and belonging. But for now, hit me with your thoughts. How do you understand the elusive I? How and where do you find personal meaning and purpose? I’m keen to hear your thoughts.
If you’re in need of immediate support or medical assistance call 000, or contact: