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Lets talk about Suicide

I wrote this a few months ago for the Australian Jewish News. But i'm sharing this here again in full on World Suicide prevention day 2023.

Last week marked 2 years since my friend passed away from Suicide. And I've thought a lot about him over these past 2 years. He was and still is a big part of my own personal healing journey. I have wanted for a while to write something in his memory with a message I think he would appreciate me sharing, but I have felt some personal fear and resistance towards sharing any private or personal details publicly. I’m going to try to move through this fear and start writing anyhow but I will keep his identity here anonymous and focus more on the message.

We don’t like talking about difficult mental health challenges like Suicide. And in our tight knit Jewish community, even more so.

But Suicide is not a random death. Nor is it usually anything to do with a chemical imbalance. To just refer to someone's death by Suicide as ‘Oh they had the mental illness of Depression - a chemical imbalance'' is firstly a myth, but is also essentially to dismiss their lived experience and their pain. It doesn’t serve their memory, nor does it help us in our community to learn to better ourselves and grow to a place where Suicide happens less. I’m not going to write a scathing essay about the ills of our community or lay the blame on anyone or on anything in particular - I definitely could but I think that would dilute the message I feel is most important to share.

I didn’t have a close relationship with this friend until a year or two before his tragic passing. We grew up in the same community but we weren’t particularly close. We only ended up becoming close during the last year of his life. What actually bonded us was our pain and our shared personal struggles. I walked one day into a recovery space I was attending at the time - and all of a sudden I saw this guy sitting in the circle - wearing a cap. We acknowledged each other with a smile and afterwards we connected on a deeper and personal level about our common challenges at the time. Seeing him in this sacred space was very moving and encouraging to me at the time. I was feeling alone in my journey and he was the first person I would meet in such spaces that I knew personally, it helped me internalize at the time that I'm not so unique, that there are others just like me, struggling in similar ways and that healing is indeed possible.

We don’t talk enough about difficult mental health challenges in our community. And as a direct result of this we have a real and unique lack of awareness and compassion. This lack of awareness directly impacts and creates an atmosphere and a culture of shame. Shame is a really big thing our community struggles with - and shame contributes to people not speaking up, and people feeling scared to reach out for help when they need it. Will I be listened to? Will I be judged? Will I be heard and seen with compassion if I muster up enough courage to reach out and get honest and vulnerable with a friend? These are real questions people among us ask.

We have a community culture where many are focused on putting their best foot forward, on creating a good image, hiding their human challenges, pretending everything is okay and not wanting to be honest about the difficult human challenges that exist under the surface.

I don’t know what the exact solution is in this difficult space. And I don't know if there’s anything anyone could have done to save my friend from dying. But what I do know is that we need to all be speaking up more and listening more, and in an honest, authentic and compassionate way. We need to be listening more to those among us who have experience and we need to be doing more as a community to address what is only a growing challenge. We need to speak up more about mental health, about Suicide, about addictions of all kinds. Not because it’s always attractive, not even because it’s real and it’s a matter of life and death, and for many people. But because it’s real and it’s the right thing to do.

Let's imagine us as a community coming to a place where someone who’s struggling with self harm feels comfortable enough to share about their challenges at Shul with the person sitting next to them. Let's imagine a place where someone who’s comtemplating suicide feels comfortable reaching out to a fellow community member and receiving love, compassion and support. I imagine a community where someone struggling with eating disorders or addiction can reach out to anyone and receive compassion, support and love. I imagine a community where we don’t look down upon those among us with normal human challenges. Not only because these people are actually your neighbors, your friends and even your close relatives who are struggling in silence - but because it’s the right thing. Progress starts with me and you talking more and listening more.

If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline: 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467.

Pinny Super

Founder - Nefesh Healing Melbourne


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