September 26, 2023

Thoughts About National Suicide Awareness.

Day today is National Suicide Awareness Day. The acronym for this is S.A.D., I’m just noticing.

I don’t normally acknowledge these fake holidays but this is a big reason to say something. So here I go.

I’m going to start by talking about my child’s two grandfathers… two self-made men. They were both born into low income families from the city.

As a kid, my Italian Dad ran the streets of Brooklyn with his friends. They made their own fun by doing things like hitting a Spalding ball with a broomstick to send it speeding down the block. The old guys of the neighborhood would come out and place bets on which kid was going to hit a homer.

My son’s other grandpa passed recently. He, too, came from humble roots. His mother immigrated from Ireland to Inwood, New York and he lost her at a relatively young age, so he and his siblings lived a wild life being raised by a single father.

My son’s Irish Grandpa had very well developed calf muscles. I found out that this was a result of hauling large blocks of ice on his back up multiple flights of steps inside city buildings. This was his job at a formative age.

Neither of these men were at risk of suicide. I cannot speak of people’s individual reasons for being depressed or having mental health issues. To go there would be insensitive, or disrespectful, I think.

But I can tell you why these men grew up with little and yet felt driven by a fiery spirit toward success. That fiery drive is the opposite of what today’s would-be holiday represents.

I can tell you why they moved into positions of authority and responsibility in their careers, and thus were able to offer comfort and financial security to their families and grandchildren.

It’s because they had freedom, tough challenges, and a purpose. Society at the time did not have a lot to offer in the way of support compared to what goes on today. You had to solve your own problems. Perhaps this was better. No time to be sad. No waiting for the handout.

As kids, they lived a simple daily life, and had a few uncomplicated but nevertheless important tasks to accomplish. They were even treated poorly by angry nuns of the Catholic schools they each attended.

But yet, perhaps because of that purpose and sense of freedom and adventure, being treated harshly did not break them.

I’m not advocating being mean to anyone and I don’t support oppressive circumstances. But one can’t help but notice these men were mentally healthy even in their disadvantaged position.

So, it’s Suicide Awareness Day. But other than everyone putting signs up on their profiles, what is being said? What’s the plan for tomorrow?

How will we provide self-worth to the youth of today so that they may become self-confident, powerful and influential citizens of the future?

I have a few ideas. I’ll take my cue from the old school.

  • Let kids come up with their own fun. Stop trying to orchestrate everything. Give kids free time to play, explore and establish their social order. Be imperfect. Wing it. Let them do it however they want.
  • Limit the computer use. Studies have been conducted that prove technology is bad for our nervous system and mental health.
  • Stop fear mongering everyone. Don’t let others put fear in you OR your kids. I came of age at a time where seat belts were optional. Take a rest from the over-protection and see what happens. Gets your blood pumping to take a chance, doesn’t it.
  • Get out and live. The news is meant to keep everyone hiding in their homes constantly checking their phones. If you’re checking your phone now, I hope you read this and I hope it inspires you to go out and look around.
  • Validate someone. People today don’t get validated. They’re trapped in a fake internet world of competition and copycatting. If you get a chance to speak someone’s truth, go there. Your words may be the only thing that person has left to keep them going.
  • Give the kids a purpose. A real purpose. Let’s find simple, fulfilling things for them to do… like take care of animals, help make dinner, paint the fence.
  • Have your child teach a little kid how to do something like catch a ball. Send your kids out to the garden to pick something for dinner. Draw pictures together. Write a story.

(I was in Walmart the other day, God help me. I heard a woman saying some awful things in the next aisle. She could have been on her phone or maybe she was talking to someone with her, I don’t know. She was being mean, harsh and insulting. We don’t need that kind of treatment for our kids today. It’s just going to push them farther away into their computer world.)

  • Be kind. Try to imagine what someone else’s point of view could be. Have empathy. Stop and listen. Think about someone’s words. Sleep on a problem. What could they be experiencing?
  • Take time to think. Remember something someone said to you. That’s a great way to validate another human soul.
  • Do we still have souls? Step away from the technology and check to see whose soul is still intact. You might have to look at or talk to them.
  • Call out someone on their BS. It might hurt, but it’s real. Real helps us live.
  • Exercise… EVERY day. It doesn’t have to be organized or competitive. Just go for a walk. Stop making it a thing. Go outside, kick a ball.

I literally am sitting here right after taking a run on a beautiful summer evening. The park has started to fill up with people who are here for sports. A few moments ago, I heard music on the exercise path so I looked up.

I saw a man who is probably my dad’s age kicking a ball around and enjoying some jazz music to the joy of his little Scottish terrier dog.

I stopped and smiled and played with the dog for a bit. This is what it’s all about.

It’s not about getting a designer Shiba Inu and parading it around Target to snap selfies and post them on the internet. It’s not about sitting home in your apartment worrying that you’re going to catch a virus. That guy had a soul. I just saw it. His dog saw it, too.

Wake up, push the envelope, take a chance. Start a business. Have a real conversation with your kids. Give your children a simple task.

Eat well. Lose weight. Clean your house. Go for a swim. Have an unplanned afternoon of whatever. Stop scheduling everything. Stop freaking out. Stop talking fast and neurotically. Say something meaningful. Say it slower.

Everything we do and say is projected onto our children. Let’s chill. Nobody wants to see anybody feeling bad about themselves.

If you see something, say something. Anything you can do for someone else… any small thing. Do it. Eye contact, a smile… sitting with the new kid at lunch… saying I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it. Or, “I like you and I think you’re a cool person…”

…could just save a life today.

Long-time freelance copywriter Dina Gio owns and manages the Healthy Happy NJ blog. She does not run an emotional support group… but her runner and writer friend, Suzanne, does. Join Run Before You Fly on Facebook today.