no one gets a suicide pass

Every time I remember that it’s September I audibly breathe out. This year is speeding at slowing at the same pace at the same time. I’m tired of the country’s literal and figurative fires in the past six months…and just in the past.

September has historically been a month for me of natural reinvention and heaviness. I start getting excited about new fall album releases that will be my soundtrack for a new season of a new year. I’ve taken dramatic steps in years’ past to make my mental health stronger while being toned by the cause of the month; September is National Suicide Prevention Month. I’m reminded again that no one should die by suicide.

It feels like an obvious thing to say, that no one should die by suicide. Yet, our underlying attitudes towards creatives, like those in music, and those with mental illness turn the seemingly obvious into something radical. Constantly, society has turned said groups suicide into an act that was inevitable, not preventable. The artists and those with a mental illness have somehow been given a suicide pass.

An artist’s work always becomes the evidence. Take Elliot Smith. The indie singer songwriter had a substance use disorder and multiple diagnosed mental illnesses. His lyrics exist in a depressed state. “I can’t prepare for death anymore than I already have,” Smith sings in “King’s Crossing.” Smith died in 2003, but his music is still placed under a microscope on the Internet, where fans are connecting strings from lyrics to suicide.

I contrast Smith’s death with the “unexpected” celebrity suicides. Robin Williams – the jovial, talented, comedic Uncle of generations. The collective grief, including my own, was great which I contribute partly due to his popularity but mainly to society’s interpretation that it was unforeseen. The meaning making parts of our brains freaked out. We couldn’t point to anything. There was no “King’s Crossing” to refer back on.

One is no more acceptable or understandable than the other. Creativity as an expression for one’s inner struggle’s should not be used as a logic and justification for their death by suicide. I chose those lyrics to include from Smith because I knew the brain would tie his art with his suicide. But really, sadness does not equal or make it inevitable suicide. Neither Smith’s lyrics nor William’s comedy does not “make sense” of their suicide. To the extent to which we outwardly show are emotions in art is not always an indicator or precursor to suicide. I’m not saying we should ignore obvious warning signs, but suicide prevention happens outside of the art. You can write and sing about your feelings and still get help.

Sure, suicide ideation is invisible. But, suicide prevention is visible and tangible. Suicide prevention looks like preventing systems to drive people to die by suicide. Affordable healthcare with access to therapy, safe housing, options for substance misuse recovery, belonging to community, clean water, motivational and educational materials, uninterrupted sleep – all constitute very real treatments that help people.

National Suicide Prevention Month is exhausting every year for me. I’ve lost people and almost lost myself. I look at the rising suicide rates from this year alone and having anything to say about suicide feels…hopeless. What could I possibly write or contribute to this conversation?

Despite the exacerbation, I wrote this and I’m here. Creating and talking about my mental health reminds me that everything isn’t lost. I’m here to say that despite how many sad songs you write, how many mental illnesses you were diagnosed with, how many shit things are thrown at you this year, that suicide is not your destiny. No one gets a suicide pass, including you. Life might be hard and bleak right now, but I can promise you that things will change. 

It’s hard to be a person and be alive right now. I have to stay really focused on my “whys” and actively do the things that are truly good for me. When the heaviness set in last week, I put on my running shoes and blasted Bleachers. The weather had been starting to dip, and I saw a few leaves remind me that fall was approaching. And right then I’m reminded of the change, and that makes me know that it’ll be okay.

To get help now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Chat online with the Lifeline here. The line is available 24/7. The Crisis Text Line can be accessed by texting HOME to 741741.


This week’s playlist can be found here.

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