A gentle reminder

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

It was mid-June when my friend wanted to commit suicide.  

Due to clashing schedules, we hadn’t talked in months, but social media filled me in on their life: a new partner, sushi cravings, the struggle to get a parking permit. 

It also told me that they wanted to hurt themselves. 

I am not afraid of death. Even when I watched my grandmother take her last breath or thought I had cancer when I felt a lump in my breast, dying was never a concern. Losing my life pales in comparison to the fear I have of losing a loved one to suicide. 

As any friend would, I spammed their accounts, asking if they were okay, telling them I was there. 

You can imagine the gut-wrenching feeling I had when they didn’t reply. 

They were one of the first friends I made in high school. I cannot recall my secondary education experience without thinking of them. From our teen years to early adulthood, we traded our daily lunchtime conversations for once-in-a-few months hang outs and short car rides. While college changed the dynamics of our relationship, the friendship stayed strong.

Healing had been a logical process for me: if you see pain, you fix it. If someone is physically hurt, give an ice pack or Salonpas. If an individual is crying, hand them tissues and offer support.

But suicidal thoughts are not always visible. 

So how could I fix something I couldn’t see? 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide was the second leading cause of death among 10 to 34 year-olds in 2017. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  states that mental disorders, job or financial loss and hopelessness are some risk factors that increase the likelihood of considering or attempting suicide. 

I remember the wave of relief when their name finally flashed on my phone screen. Their responses came in a series of texts first, telling me they were okay and were comfortable to call. 

I did not ask for an explanation when they picked up the receiver. I let them do the talking: what triggered the suicidal thoughts, who they already spoke to, what they planned to do now. 

At that point, I didn’t care about approaching the situation with logic. I was just happy they were alive. 

I reiterated that despite my busy schedule I was there for them; I did not want them to feel like they had to battle their demons alone.  I told them I loved them and cared about what happened to them. 

“Thank you, Kai,” they said. “You saved my life tonight.” 

As we bid good night, the tears started falling and I found myself bawling in my mother’s arms, something I had not done since I was in elementary school. 

I almost lost a dear friend that night.

Although they told me this, I will not take credit for saving their life. People who have suicidal thoughts are not weak individuals who need saving. As Iyanla Vanzant, an inspirational speaker and television personality, said in an episode of “Iyanla: Fix My Life”: “You don’t wanna die. You just wanna stop hurting.” 

Some are more open to sharing their struggles than others. Regardless of whether someone’s inner struggle is visible or not, our responsibility as friends and family is to remind each other that we care, that we are willing to listen. As I learned that night in June, the small things still matter - so much so that they can give someone a reason to keep living.