When we think of the word “strong,” often the first thing that comes to mind is bulging biceps and toned abs. In our body image obsessed society we display strength as a trophy with such pride, but we often forget to acknowledge emotional strength.

Sometimes we mix being strong with shutting down completely, leaving our emotions behind and not saying what we truly want or feel. By bottling this strength up, we leave ourselves emotionally numb, incapable of expressing ourselves and unable to trust those around us. Similar to exercising and stimulating our physical strength through daily exercise and repetition, I strongly believe that we must train ourselves to be emotionally strong by acknowledging our emotions and letting them come through as they will, no matter how painful or how frightening they may be. But truly, if we show off our physical strength with so much pride, why can’t we do the same with our emotional strength? Is it for fear of rejection? Or is it something deeper than that?

My thoughts surrounding emotional and physical strength have been particularly strong with Suicide Prevention Week upon us. On this week a question that often comes up is “why?” What motivates someone to commit suicide or have self-destructive thoughts? Despite the increase in resources for mental health, depression and the increased awareness surrounding potential causes and triggers in young people, it still is so difficult to understand what motivates suicide. As someone who has struggled with these feelings before, sometimes the helplessness becomes so overwhelming that you worry that if you share your feelings you will burden, scare or upset others.

Sometimes we go through traumatic events in our lives that cause us to feel this way. More often, we become so afraid of the reactions and perspectives of others that we forget to succumb to the basic human condition of emotion—letting go of our fears and going with our instincts. By letting fear take over, we deny ourselves the ability to process everyday events and instead keep our true feelings inside ourselves, for fear that what we’re experiencing won’t be validated by our peers. More often than not, it’s because we’re afraid of taking a risk, afraid of losing the approval and love of others, which consequently means losing our justification for self-approval and love. In my opinion, suicide is not something that should be feared or downplayed in any respect. It’s a cry for help. Someone saying “I feel completely hopeless. I’ve exhausted all my other avenues, what makes it worth it for me to be here? Please give me a reason, because right now I don’t have the mental capacity to think of one.”

What’s most tragic is when someone commits suicide and we don’t have the chance to tell them how much we love them, how sorry we are for not knowing, and most importantly, why they can never be replaced. None of us can. Whether you know it or not, you have an impact and you are a part of someone’s story. So, to all of you, on this very important week, I would like you to know: you can never, ever be replaced. You have been, are and will always be loved. And one day, hopefully someday soon, this is a battle you won’t have to fight.

For more information on National Suicide Prevention Week and for more resources on how to help someone who you think may be thinking about suicide, please visit:  http://nspw.suicidology.org/ or http://www.nami.org.


image: Image Base (Creative Commons BY-ND-SA)