Pushing silence out of suicide’s way


Recently, I decided to take a course called Introduction to Counselling because I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a Masters and before I can even apply there’s a bunch of pre-requisites to be completed. One baby step at a time.

My ultimate goal, a never ending journey in the past few years, is to find a way to do something for money that complements my writing but will bring in more money than my writing has and will enable me to be self-employed.  I love the idea of doing more than one thing to make money. In fact, going to one job, in one place, for the whole day just seems like too many contradictions: a luxury, a penance and some retro fantasy that seems really outdated, especially if you have an artsy background.

Now, those of you who know me know that I’ve had way more than an introduction to counselling in my own life. Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt. Pretty much already have the PhD in life experience.   But, no, that’s not true because I don’t, have a PhD that is, and because it’s different when you’re on the other side.  Surprise, surprise. Counselling is harder than it looks, and so far, in the class, we’ve only been practicing with fellow students, people who aren’t desperate, or even if they are, aren’t expecting you’ll be able to help them help themselves, for real.

It’s been a fascinating experience because it takes away any illusion one might have about other people being so much more together. They’re not. Simple. Done. Wipe the hands. Everybody’s got their shit. It’s an absolutely hallelujah moment to recognize that everybody’s got their shit and, well, so what?  Next. Moving right along.  The question is, are you dealing with it or inflicting it?

I mean if Robin Williams is done, what hope is there for the rest of us? And I really wonder if that’s what some of the more fragile out there are going to think. I wonder if the suicide hot lines are going to be off the charts this week with people who feel this way after the tragedy of Robin Williams taking his own life.

On  a more positive note, I feel like we are reaching a turning point, a barely visible shift when it comes to depression and other mental illnesses being taken seriously, and it’s been slower than proverbial molasses. People finally get that depression is an illness, not a sign of weakness, and most importantly, it’s real. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t moralize. Don’t ignore the signs. Don’t think you’re better because you’re always just fine thank you very much. Hold the cliches. You know what they are. Think on the bright side. You’re glass is either half empty or half full. Cheer up. It’s not so bad. Count your blessings. What have you got to be depressed about?

When I was in high school and suffered what I consider my first major bout of depression, I might as well have been naked on a raft in the middle of an ocean with nothing but a Bengal tiger and a hyena for company. It was the 1970’s. Depression? What’s that? That’s how alone, how ashamed, how isolated and desperate I felt made worse by how everyone around me reacted by not reacting at all. I could feel the shame. Was I embarrassing them? I can still recall the misery all these years later, and the misery of every time the darkness beyond black has descended. Immobilized. Ashamed. Here but not here. Stuck. And yet still a worthy human being. Right here. Me. Deal with it.

I have experienced the suicide of someone I loved. I know the devastation first hand. His name was Mac Rymal. I have heard about the suicide of someone I played basketball with for five years in high school, attended her funeral, and the pain of knowing how and what she did, leaving behind three young daughters as a result,  is something I think about regularly. I’ve always wondered how her girls, one just a baby at the time, have made out in life and I have never forgotten her. She was the captain of our championship basketball team. Her name was Donna Digby.

It might surprise you to know that the death rate for suicide is higher than the death rate from motor vehicle accidents. It surprised me.

It’s no longer okay for the S words to remain in the closet. Are you thinking of killing yourself?” is a legitimate question. It needs to be asked when it needs to be asked. It won’t push someone over the edge.

It’s so long overdue, one loss after another, to kick those other two S words: silence and stigma, to the curb.


  1. As always, Gayle, so well put. And timely, given the recent sad revelations regarding Robin Williams — that funny, funny, happy-go-lucky guy who brought a smile to everyone’s face. Once never knows …..
    I wish you every success in your most recent educational venture.

    With love,

    1. Thank you, Anne. We can’t really know what’s going on inside of people, especially people we think we know because of their fame, and don’t.

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