The Taboo Word: Suicide
By: Yujia Ding
Suicide. Suicide. Suicide.
It’s taboo to say this word. There isn’t enough conversation around the topic. I feel trapped and unable to share a part of myself that defines why I am here today and the experiences I have had.
I have lost two co-workers to suicide and mental illness. While we were not close, we still
interacted with one another, said hello in passing in the hallways, and collaborated on projects together. It was shocking when the first happened; I was called away from a group project to head up to lab to meet with my other labmates. That’s when I found out about the first suicide.
The second one I don’t remember how I found out, maybe it was in an email? It happened so suddenly. One day, I passed him in the hallway, the next day he wasn’t to be found in his office.
Suicide to me isn’t just about losing these two individuals from my professional life. It is about the countless students lost too young from the suicide cluster in Palo Alto, CA, a city near where I grew up. It is about the students lost to suicide at my university that I call my alma mater. It is about the three times I have attempted to take my own life away.
I am a survivor of suicide. If you had told me in high school before my first attempt that I would be in a world class molecular biosciences PhD program, that I would babysit for the greatest kids on the face of the planet, that I would have an amazing rescue pup, that I would have had the opportunity to run a half-marathon through the streets of Chicago, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Furthermore, if you told me I would have a service dog to help me navigate my mid-to-late twenties and that I would have completed two marathons, I wouldn’t have believed you. There are so many things I have done and experienced that I couldn’t have imagined in the deep, dark throes of my depression that hit me while I was still in high school.
I never spoke of the first attempt to anybody until many years after, when I was being admitted to a psychiatric unit at the hospital because I was so scared people would judge me, would see me as weak, as less than.
I once read, if you attempt suicide once, you are more likely to attempt suicide a second, third time. I tried again as a senior in college, when it didn’t seem like the depression would lift, when it didn’t seem like anxiety would leave me alone. That time, like the first time, I didn’t speak up about it. I didn’t tell anybody the details of my attempts. I didn’t tell anybody I had tried continually to numb my feelings for days on end with self-harm.
It wasn’t until almost two weeks later at a therapy session that I admitted what I had been doing. Why? Because I was... and still am ashamed of myself, because I feared judgement, because I feared the very people treating me would see me as a
'hopeless case', as a failure, and worthless.
I no longer want to be ashamed of my struggle and battle with mental illness. While I understand that suicide is a permanent solution to what may seem like a temporary problem to most, it is sometimes the only option we see to help end our pain, our suffering. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that makes sense in the moment and the moments leading up to the act.
I hope to one day live in a world where suicide and mental illness are not stigmatized. I want to give a voice to those struggling and to the survivors, of both attempts or deaths of loved ones.
By speaking out and speaking up, I hope that those who don’t feel they have a voice will be able to find their own voice. I hope this inspires you and gives you the strength you need to find your voice and end the stigma.