Trigger warning: Mentions of suicide.
If you or anyone you know struggles with thoughts of suicide, contact the National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 0917 899 8727 and 989 8727.
I almost lost my best friend.
Thankfully, he’s still alive—but now I live in a constant state of fear that he might not choose to wake up tomorrow.
Because when you receive a text in the middle of the night from a person who’s so close to your heart, you drop everything and read it. And when the text asks you if people will miss him when he dies, you call him in a frantic state of panic, fear, and worry. But when you only hear an automated voice repeatedly telling you that his mobile number can’t be reached, how else are you meant to react?
I panicked. I kept calling his number despite failing to get through to him every time. Our best friend, who lived on the other side of the Earth, panicked as well. She messaged other mutual friends, asking them if they could get in contact with him. We didn’t get any response.
I feared. I didn’t know what happened to trigger this. She had no clue either. We were left to retrace our conversations for the past few days, searching for anything that might give us answers. What was going on?
I worried. Questions flooded my mind. She was still online, but she didn’t say anything else. We were silent, lost in our own thoughts.
We panicked, we feared, and we worried together… because at that moment we could do nothing else.
The morning after I received a text saying he was still here and feeling better—but when I spoke to him that evening, he had returned to an almost lifeless state.
This is not the first time cases like these have happened. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reports, “Despite progress, one person still dies every 40 seconds from suicide.”
The crisis is so urgent and alarming that:
Looking at it from the media’s perspective, Netflix removed an explicit and graphic scene from 13 Reasons Why after medical professionals have criticized it. Similarly, the members of the press are called on to practice responsible journalism, considering their wide reach. To start, they must leave out the specifics of reported suicides. This prevents viewers, who may be contemplating on thoughts of suicide themselves, from glamorizing death any further.
The government has implemented the Philippine Mental Health Law or Republic Act 11036. It puts an emphasis on “the balanced delivery of mental health services (community-based and hospital-based) with more focus on persons with psychiatric, neurologic, and psychosocial health needs, and overcoming society’s attitudinal challenges that they may live free from stigma and discrimination.”
WHO, in collaboration with its global partners, launched the 40 seconds of action campaign on September 10—World Suicide Prevention Day. The campaign is centered on the idea that a person only needs to reach out to someone for 40 seconds in order to impact a positive change and to quite possibly save a life.
This is where we come into the picture.
As a friend to others, when you feel that you are able to, reach out. Listen to them and don’t joke about the situation. Change the way you communicate about suicide. For example, end the use of the phrase “committed suicide” as it depicts suicide like a crime instead of what it actually is: the result of mental illness. Don’t recoil from discussions on mental health. Instead, help organizations normalize talking about these issues. They are just as crucial health concerns as every other disease. Today might be World Mental Health Day, but when you’re able to, choose to break the stigma every day.
As a friend to yourself, reach out. When life and its demands become too overwhelming, ask for help from people you can trust. Speak to a professional before, during, or after you feel like you’ve reached a dead end. When you’re able, take care of yourself and put together a self-care routine before you hit rock bottom. When you’re able, start educating yourself on coping mechanisms for the bad days.
But also as a friend to yourself, reach in. Sometimes, you’ll feel the need to isolate yourself. In that case, stay safe. Take a break and recharge. Catch up on sleep. Stay hydrated and eat something. If you struggle to love yourself, have a go at staying neutral like the people who practice body neutrality. There’s no need to beat yourself up for the mistakes you’ve made. And for all the times that you did, you can forgive yourself when you’re ready. It’s okay not to rush. Life is not a race.
Most of all,
Tell your friends and family you love them. Remind them to choose to wake up tomorrow.
Whisper “I love you” to yourself. Remember, you’re still going to wake up tomorrow.