TW: MH. This story has discussions around mental health and suicide. We invite our community members to read our Unsinkable story if it’s the right time for them.
June 21, 2019: “Listen, don’t do anything like that! You have a life to live and live it out to the fullest. Create new beginnings, fill yourself with happiness. It may sound hard to do, but surround yourself with good people. Do this and you may be rewarded in the long run”. These are the words said to me two years ago today through a friend who was talking me out of suicide. Although this was not the full conversation nor the only one that we had, it is something from one of them that still resonates with me today all this time later.
But what led to this moment that night? Why did it feel like this was the only reasonable way to escape everything? Depression, high anxiety, thoughts of isolation, and feeling of emptiness and loneliness. In elementary school, I was not the one to put myself out there and when it came to friends and talking to people, I tended to wait until they came to me instead of me going to them. By grade 5 I had stopped talking to most people and a period of wondering what was wrong with me ensued for the next few years. Periods of wondering what I could change to fit in better and what it is that I could do to not feel so isolated. I did not know how to go about talking to people again or where to start so I just minded my own business. Feelings built up over the years to the point where some nights I would be up all night just thinking about what had happened that day and what had been said to me. Why people did what they did and said what they said. Tucked away under the smile that I tried to wear every day for 6 years, so that no one else would know about it, was this feeling that I had. Although now I have a better understanding of how to deal with it and what to do about it, it was not until the start of grade 10 that I started to really get involved in things again.
Even now years after all these experiences of the past, new feelings and experiences have come and I still go through ups and downs with how I feel. High levels of anxiety about things and feeling down on some days and other days it’s the best day of my life. Feelings that I am still
getting used to as I continue on with my day and my many activities that I am apart of. But what would have happened if I did do it that day? This is a thought that comes to my mind now even two years later. What people would have felt and how all of the people that I talk to or have talked to in the past would be affected. How everything that I am involved in would have changed. How would my family have reacted if I did it? How would my friends and people that I am close to have reacted? How would the person that talked me out of it feel after I did it knowing that he tried his best and yet was not able to succeed? I often think about my impact on people and how it would have stopped and how people would go on living their lives if I was not here. How much would everyone’s daily routines and lives change? These are the thoughts of what happens to someone when they attempt but are stopped halfway through and are shown that they matter and are cared for. These are the thoughts of fear for what I could have put others through if I did it.
In the time from my attempt to now I have come to realize that life is a precious gift. It is a gift that is so precious and so unlike any other that we need to live it to the fullest making no regrets along the way. It is a gift that can only be granted to us by someone from above. And, although at times he can test us and see where we will fall, he shows us the right way back. For me, he did that through the person that was there for me. He came down to me through that person guiding me away from my decision that I had made. A person that I look at a little differently now having saved my life and gone through all the trouble that he did to do it. He having done that because I trusted to tell him the things that I did knowing that he would help, listen and care about it. Something that everyone needs to hear no matter who they are. There are people that will listen and help you no matter what you are going through in your life.
After my attempt, I started to look around and see that other youth were experiencing the same thoughts and feelings that I was. I was not alone by any means. So many people feeling the same things and not knowing what to do about them that I vowed to do something about it on a large scale. A new motivation was born within me to keep acting until everyone is able to have access to mental health resources and care and until there is an end to the stigma around mental illness and poor mental health.
In May of 2020, I started a mental health association (Youth Mental Health March) with a goal of not only breaking the stigma around mental health disorders in youth but also to push government bodies to do more in their support for resources for the youth that need it the most. Through this new association, every year a March for Youth Mental Health will take place in Hamilton that will be designed to not only raise awareness but to push all governments to do more in providing resources and develop new policy. For more about this event and the association, I invite everyone to visit www.ymhmarch.com.
On that fateful day in 2019 and since with my friend going out of his way to do what he did for me, he showed me that there is more to life than what is happening now or what has happened in the past. We each have a life to live and yes, although we do go through things, we can overcome them. If we look beyond where we are now, or where we have been, and we start looking at all of the things that are to come in the future, it can change our perspective. We are here for a reason and that reason is to make a difference in each other’s lives. If you have ever felt like this, it is ok to feel this way. There is nothing wrong with speaking up. There are people that can help you and no matter what you need to talk about, or for how long, someone will listen to you and will care about it too. In this modern world today, it is important to know that when someone says that they are going to kill or injure themselves that it should be taken seriously. Even though it may seem like a joke and you are not being serious, it brings up a serious matter and many red flags as to how someone is feeling. It was because of this that I could talk about how I was feeling and people would not take it seriously at all. This ‘joke’ needs to stop now.
I want you to think about what it is that you, personally and as a group, can do to help others who may be in a situation where they need help. I also hope to have motivated others who have felt like this or have had thought like this to come forward and say something about it. It is important to know that no matter what happens that it gets better and that people are here to listen to you and even though things seem like they are not going to get better if you feel like this, they do. I promise.
You can follow Joshua on Instagram @joshuamjbell