Suicide – A mother’s tale of coping and surviving

September 4, 2020

Wendy Parker


The World Health Organization estimates 800,000 people die from suicide worldwide each year. September is set aside as Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month with the 10th being designated as World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide and focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most.

During the best of times, it’s difficult to take care of your mental health when you’re on the road. Clearly, the past year has not been the best of times for a lot of us. The complete disruption and upheaval of our economy, public health and general welfare has taken a toll on many, making it all the more important to talk about our feelings.

Don’t check out on me because I said “feelings,” driver. Everyone has feelings, and everyone needs to talk about them once in a while. I don’t know about you, but 2020 has been a cluster-bang for me and mine. I don’t want to talk about it as much as I just want to sit beside a cicada in a tall tree and out-scream it.

While we’re talking instead of screaming, I’ll mention that 2019 wasn’t so great either because that’s the year we lost our 21-year-old son to suicide. So please, this means a lot to me – read on. And even more importantly, use the information for your benefit and the benefit of your fellow driver.

Today’s truths are crazier than any strange thing or filthy lie I could ever make up. It’s no wonder folks are struggling a little more to keep themselves emotionally healthy.

Now, more than ever, it’s imperative to have a sounding board, a rock, a safe place. Take it from someone who is suffering a floundering career in satire, the world has most definitely become odder than we ever imagined it would be. Having someone who will answer the phone any time of the day or night is a blessing a lot of us don’t realize, and some of us don’t have.

That’s why it’s also important to be the one to reach out. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has adopted the hashtag #BeThe1To as a reminder to remember your family, friends and maybe someone you don’t even know very well.

If they’re on your mind, call them, text them, send a smoke signal – whatever. #BeThe1To ask how their day went, or how they’re feeling. Just knowing that someone gives a crap enough to pick up the phone (or start a fire) is sometimes all it takes to keep someone from slipping over the dark edge.

The reasons for suicide are legion. Underlying physiological conditions that influence chemical imbalances in the brain have become more common as more as more outside environmental influences become prevalent in our world. These imbalances are often hard to diagnose and require a dedicated regimen prescribed by licensed medical professionals.

That’s if you’re lucky enough to find and be able to utilize these professionals. Wait times for initial appointments with prescribing mental health professionals are often delayed – especially for one of the most vulnerable groups of our society, our veterans.

The all-important first step of reaching out to find help can be overwhelming. The stigma attached to asking for help is a real and true thing. It’s not your imagination. I’d love to lie to you and say it’s all rainbows and unicorn kisses, but I can’t. Our current mental healthcare system is sorely lacking and abysmally behind. That’s why it’s imperative that we talk openly about the issue.

Even as a family survivor of suicide, I have felt the same of judgment from people who don’t understand why I might not be all that hip to hanging around the mortal coil anymore. Quite honestly, I miss my boy a lot, and the thought of seeing him on the other side is really appealing sometimes. Trust me, I’ve stood in a thunderstorm to tempt fate, hoping I’d be struck by lightning, but it didn’t happen, and now my neighbors avoid me.

So here we are.

This is the most important part of the story, folks. If you read nothing else, read this.

No matter how appealing it may be to just “walk off into the sunset,” I am here to testify to you with complete and utter conviction that someone somewhere will grieve you deeply. I want you to know the pain doesn’t end. It just transfers to the people who care about you most, and it’s deeper and wider with every person who leaves by their own hand down the line.

Call someone. Ask for help. There are resources and non-judgmental people who will help you. I’m not even going to begin to tell you to “keep your chin up,” because I want to punch people when they say things like that, but then a part of me knows they just don’t know what else to say.

I do. I’m here to tell ya you aren’t always going to keep your chin up, no matter how fat your neck looks in the mirror. I fear there may be harder days ahead, but remember each hard day you get through is one you don’t have to do again. And sometimes, that’s how you make it to the next one.

Please be safe out there. There are people who care about you, we see you and we know how hard your job is. This Labor Day weekend we appreciate you staying on the road to keep our families supplied with the things they need.

Thank you for what you do.

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