“I can’t believe someone so happy could actually be so sad.” Over and over again, people were shocked by the death of Robin Williams, but not just because of the loss of an incredible man, but because his death was not an accident and it was not at someone else’s hand. 

People muttered things like, “Who would’ve ever thought?” and “That’s unbelievable.” What they don’t realize is that every 40 seconds this happens again. Maybe not to a celebrity, maybe not even to someone you know, but every 40 seconds a mother, a father, a friend, a child, a classmate, a co-worker dies by choice.

This phenomenon is not new. While suicide rates have increased over the last few years, suicide has always been a problem. Perhaps the reason that suicide is so rampant right now is because the stigmas surrounding mental illness, which is the leading cause to suicide, are so often just brushed aside and condemned.

While it is common for most people to stray away from the controversy of mental illness, not everyone does. To Write Love On Her Arms is a nonprofit movement, which began in 2006, that is dedicated to presenting hope and help for people who are struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. They want to spread the message that treatment and recovery is real and possible, and also to spread awareness that “you are not alone” and attempts to create a more positive sense of community and help.

For me, TWLOHA is a lifesaver, not just because of their persistence in the spreading of hope, but because of the opportunities they allow others to have, in order to help other people. TWLOHA allowed me to host The Storytellers campaign my senior year of high school, in which I was able to spread awareness for the reality of mental illness, rather than the stigma. I was able to share my own story of struggles, in order to help others come out with their own secrets, so that they too could find healing and hope.

I am happy to say that I am, today, truly happy and stable, and I never shy away from an opportunity to glitter that hope onto another person. I think that secrets can kill us, and that it is vital to be open and honest about struggles. If everyone walks around with a pretty smile on their face and mutter a nonchalant “I’m fine, thank you,” when actually they aren’t, this won’t create a generation of happy people, but instead will create a generation of masks and lies, which only feed the dark parts of us. I believe that the light in us must be illuminated and must shine so that everyone can see.

While TWLOHA is not officially affiliated with Christianity, they do spread Christian principles and often reference to the hope and strength of God in overcoming struggles. Personally for me, I know that even with the message of hope that TWLOHA provides, without my faith and reliance on God, I would not be the breathing vessel of hope that I am today. I am thankful that God has saved me and rescued me, and that He has burdened my heart to be “a beacon of hope for the little girl who has none,” as said by Demi Lovato, who also is a huge advocate for awareness for mental illness. 

She spreads the message of hope through her 365-day book, Staying Strong. She openly admits to her own struggles and gives a message of hope for everyday of the year. Personally, this book was a huge contribution to my own recovery because of the honesty and encouragement she provides.

While you may think suicide may not directly affect you, it does. You never know who is struggling with these haunting thoughts. It could very well be the quiet girl who sits in the back of class, who persistently wears long sleeves despite how hot it is outside. Maybe it is your neighbor who just lost his job and his marriage is falling apart at the seams. It could be your 7th grade teacher whose husband died 3 months ago. It could even be your little sister who just lost her best friend because she found better friends. 

The truth is, you never know what a person is going through and how that is affecting them, which is precisely why you should always be the sunrays to someone’s tempestuous storm. Your contribution, your smile, your encouragement could be the very thing that saves someone’s life.

by Chanda Scobee

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