Author: Valery B.
We come into this world as helpless human beings, relying on outside sources for survival and prosperity. Our first breaths are marked by a screaming mother, a proud –
yet scared – father, a plethora of doctors, nurses, medications, tubes, hospital gadgets and commotion.It is as if we enter a battle field in which we are already wounded by our helpless nature. We are blind to our surroundings, deaf to the noise, paralyzed of the control of our body parts. Some of us cannot even breath on our own. Although we are surrounded by aid, we are alone and immensely unprepared for the journey ahead.
With time, however, one day after another, one month after the next, year by year, we learn to pick ourselves up and take ownership and control of ourselves and our lives. We become independent entities, reliant solely on our own decisions. The power to live the life we chose is in our hands, and so we trudge through life, combating one obstacle after the next until we hit the pot of gold that marks our success, happiness, and fulfillment.
However, when something goes wrong, when the path towards prosperity is halted by a
particularly grandiose quandary, such as an illness, a death or a failing, our lives get thrown off the course. Suddenly, rather than traveling down the road that we have envisioned for ourselves, we become trapped in a forest of the unknown, where darkness feeds on helpless souls of those who succumb to defeat. In a sense, we are once again alone, back in the helpless state that we were in when we were born. Although some of us have enough fortitude to climb out of this forest and steer back onto the course, others become stuck in the abyss, where they remain until the last days of their lives. Instead of building a fire to let the smoke signal for help, the latters slowly let the darkness, isolation and defeat devour them. They become so encompassed by the darkness that the darkness eventually becomes their identities, their souls, their lives. At this point, the latters are in their demises, and without help, their lives get buried deep under the soil.
This scenario is what any mental illness is like: a dark forest of defeat that traps a human being and prevents him or her from the happiness and success that he or she envisioned for the future. From personally experiencing depression, I can attest that this forest is exactly what becomes of one’s mentality. As the illness sets in, it slowly extracts every ounce of color and light from one’s life, leaving nothing but a pit of sadness, a world of black, white and grey. Although people try to escape this state by concealing it within themselves and showing their friends, relatives and acquaintances that everything is OK, there is virtually no escape from the darkness without the correct help. These people become alone and helpless; however, instead of relying on outside sources for their survivals as they did at birth, they become so engulfed by their turmoils that they can no longer make the sound decision of reaching out for help. As time proceeds, they become more and more ill, more and more defeated. When they can no longer bare the pain, darkness and failure that their path’s forest consumed them in, they see no other reason to live – putting themselves out of their miseries in the scariest of all ways: suicide.
There are millions of people around the world that are affected by mental illnesses. According to the World Health Organization, “One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. In the United States alone, “approximately 1 in 5 adults —43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences a mental illness in a given year,” as reported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Not only are mental illnesses so ubiquitously prevalent, but also they are one of the leading causes of death on the global front. According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, “Each year, 42,773 Americans die by suicide, and on average, there are 117 suicides per day.” All of these deaths are caused by undiagnosed mental illnesses and by an uninformed, unaware society – a society that does not see the prevalence and relationship between mental health and personal struggle.
As someone who recently experienced a loss of a friend to suicide, I want to convey that there is help, support and love for anyone who is struggling in their own, personal dark forest. Nobody was aware that my friend was struggling; nobody could have guessed that He would be one to take his own life. A young adult who wore a smile on his face wherever he went, my friend could bring joy to everyone around him; however – as we all learned -, he could not bring joy to himself. To anyone who suffered through a loss to suicide, it is extremely difficult to take a lesson away from a tragic incident like this. But, if we could note the extent of and importance to being there for each other, accepting each other as we are, loving each other, and helping each other, whether that help means finding a specialist for a friend or simply lending an ear for a friend to confide in, we can show indeed be the compass an affected person needs to navigate back onto his or her path to happiness, flourishment and light. One should never forget that the same help received upon coming into this world does not disappear from one with age. Rather, it only increases and becomes more available as one reaches out. Nobody deserves to suffer alone. Nobody deserves to face defeat. Nobody deserves to live in darkness, in tears, in indelible turmoil that behaves as if it is an eternal entity. There is always help, love and support. All it takes is to reach out, to speak out and to not repress the feelings that are eradicating your soul. One day after another, one month after the next, year by year, we learn to pick ourselves back up and take ownership and control of ourselves and our lives once again. We become, once more, independent, with the power of creating the life we chose restored back into our hands. Combating obstacles becomes natural and easy, and we continue through our lives, until we hit the pot of gold that marks our success, happiness, and fulfillment. In this moment, the dark forest of our past is millions of lightyears behind.