We didn’t know, not really, why our son had died and, despite being consumed by guilt, I generally dismissed the idea that it night have been preventable. I had begun to learn not to discuss either his life or death outside of our home and my blog. It was clear that the good memories made others uncomfortable, and that the bad ones reminded them that we were living their worst nightmare.
Three years after our son’s death, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It took about five seconds for me to discover that, whereas with a mention of suicide I could clear a room, my admission that I was being treated for breast cancer would be followed by offers of support, advice, and resources. Women I barely knew would pull me into their offices to pull up their shirts and show me the results of their surgeries.
I began to remember my childhood and teen years, forty years earlier. Breast cancer was discussed only in hushed tones behind closed doors. Women died because they were too embarrassed and frightened to share their discoveries, even with their partners and doctors. And I realized that in the decades since that time, strong and determined advocates had unlocked the doors to legislation and money, and had destroyed the stigma of a disease which attacks intimate parts of our anatomy and affects the most personal parts of our lives. Today, breast cancer treatment has been revolutionized, people speak freely about breast cancer, and football players wear pink jerseys to raise awareness and assist in the efforts to further research, prevention, and treatment!
Could the same things be accomplished where suicide was concerned? Might it indeed be possible to prevent suicide?
(To be continued)
Image: Post-cancer in Seattle.