Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reach across the chasm.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I am passionate about mental health and alleviating the suffering of people, sitting shiva with them to mourn life's losses, offering presence in the midst of pain, and pressing into the awfulness before trying to explain it away. I hurt for the people who cannot bring themselves to dare to experience the inherent pain of hoping, for it forces us to acknowledge that the world is not how we wish it would be. I care about people who are hurting so badly that they inflict pain on themselves in search of some sort of congruence, some sort of release, some sort of escape, some sort of way to quiet everything that unceasingly intrudes.

I feel a bit conflicted today, though, as I post articles and comments about suicide awareness. I also care deeply about people who hurt others, and know that this, too, is within the realm of mental health awareness. There's not a world awareness day for people who commit acts of violence against others. We don't circle around these people in the same way, we don't have empathy and compassion for people once they have crossed that line. And there are many reasons that this is true. But here's the thing, found in an old, simplistic saying: "Hurt people hurt people." There are studies that suggest that hurting others can be just as psychologically traumatizing as being hurt by others. And it is this that makes me think that maybe people who hurt themselves and people who hurt others aren't so different. We're all hurt, and we all do our fair share of hurting.

I don't have answers or profound thoughts or startling insights to contribute, and I don't want to invalidate the pain of any person who has suffered and struggled to find a place of hope and health. I can't fix anything, and I am not any better at grieving and facing pain head on than anyone else in our numb society. But on days like today when we are all a bit more willing to consider the pain of others, I have to wonder what would happen if we took the risk of truly connecting with others - across racial/cultural/economic/mental health/educational/political lines and with the desire to truly unite in our humanity, in our shared pain, in a place of grief and hope. Maybe today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, we can reach across the chasms that separate us in order to grasp the hand of another human being who loves and hurts just like we do.

"Whether you are red, brown, yellow, black, or white
Man with a husband, or a woman with a wife
We can debate until the end of time who is wrong or right
Or we can see ourselves as one
Cause it all comes down to love."
~ India Arie, One

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