In my time at The Daily Texan, I’ve constantly dealt with abusive trolls attacking my ideas. In my first month, I wrote a column dealing with the environmental costs of climate change. One commenter suggested I kill myself to cut down on emissions.
While I usually take those remarks in stride, I don’t always possess that strength. Last weekend, a longtime troll responded to a tweet of mine about the Republican debate by telling me to “go grab a rope, find a high ceiling fan and a chair” and “go make the world a better place.”
I consider myself lucky to have been in good company that night. In my yearslong battle with depression, I had never encountered an event I was less ready for.
To call every day a battle is to wear out a cliché that tells individuals struggling to make it through that which they might lose. Every day is a hill. Some hills are taller than others, and I have not had the right gear every day.
If I’ve learned anything since beginning my walk, it’s that I cannot drag myself uphill. Depression can never be fought entirely alone. Even worse, it makes reaching for help all the harder.
The summer after my freshman year of college, I almost failed to make it up that hill. I found myself suffering from a panic attack at my parents’ home, miles from anyone I knew, while my parents were out of the country. For nearly a week, my thoughts raced while I sat perfectly still for hours on end.
I count that summer as a victory. From the lowest point that I can remember, I forced myself to climb upward day by day. I continue to walk on today.
Depression is no constant. I’ve gone months without issue to collapse, inconsolable. I’ve learned that I have to acknowledge its looming risks in a proactive manner but also that each challenge will be different from the last. What brings me down next time will probably be something I’ve never seen before.
Such an emotionally complex problem does not necessarily have to have complex roots and solutions. Researchers consistently find that subtle changes in policy affect suicide rates greatly. Access to lethal force — say, a gun — makes an individual more likely to successfully commit suicide.
On the flipside, individuals with greater support from their families are less likely to commit suicide. Studies show that family acceptance is a strong predictor of mental health consequences among LGBT youth.
Even worse, studies suggest that suicides seem to have a domino effect, making others in danger more likely to commit self-harm. When a dear friend of mine recently wrote about her struggle with depression, she identified the suicide of an athlete at the University of Pennsylvania as impacting her greatly, even after she was seeking help.
These studies, taken together, paint a picture of suicide not as a tragic, unpreventable event, but as something that can and should be stopped.
Beyond sweeping policy change, individuals need to take seriously how much they can help their friends in their climbs. Having a strong support group was a luxury I did not have for years, but as I’ve fought through some of my most difficult days, I’ve found it to be something I’ve needed to build more and more.
If your friends show any signs of withdrawing, reach out. It might just save a life.
Chase is a Plan II junior from Royse City. He is an Associate Editor. Follow Chase on Twitter @alexwchase.