“We held on to hope that better days were coming. And when we did, we were right.” – The Mountain Goats
Dear Fellow Warrior,
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day (initiated by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and endorsed by the WHO) and September is National Suicide Prevention Month.
One in 100 deaths is a death by suicide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 700,000 people die by suicide every year, worldwide. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States (According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)). Today, this month, and every day is another day to remind each other of the value of education on mental health, to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and save lives.
The global pandemic was an opportunity for all of us across our personal and professional domains to change the course on the conversation around mental health. While some progress has been made, we have a lot of work to do in our communities and workspaces to make it a truly inclusive society for people with “invisible disabilities.”
A recent experience where I expressed my story as a survivor of both sexual assault and suicide attempt resulted in significant stigma and retributions in that space. While this reinforced fears and traumas, I recognized the importance of staying brave about my suicide prevention efforts across every domain.
Hence, I have placed suicide prevention as a social cause on my shoulders not because I want to, but because I know firsthand that I have to.
The problem is not seeking out “safe spaces,” revising our approaches, or being careful about when and how we share our illnesses when trying to seek support and understanding.
The problem is that we have to be “careful” in the first place. The problem is within the message we send to survivors: to mask their real and lived experiences, which leads to more shame, guilt, pain and suffering, and silence. This is a world that still doesn’t fully grasp what it means to embrace “authenticity” and “belonging” for people with “invisible disabilities” and this is a result of a persistent stigma toward mental illness.
I remain hopeful in the transformative power of conversation and continue to encourage open, honest, empathic communication. We need leaders to lead with empathy, compassion, and heart.
Thank you for reading this, and for supporting suicide prevention.
I am also participating in the AFSP Out of the Darkness Community Walk for Suicide Prevention for the 9th year next month, in Washington, DC.
Please find my fundraiser link here: https://supporting.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=2827039
I am also extending my “Painting Heals” online auction to this fundraiser as well, to gift my paintings to donors this year again.
You can find some of my work in the gallery here: https://paintingheals.elsatkhwaja.com/gallery-of-paintings/
I will be adding more paintings to the gallery over time.
Please remember, Suicide Prevention efforts could take shape in many different ways.
This could be checking up on family, friends, colleagues, coworkers, or neighbors you know are suffering; educating yourself and others; supporting advocacy, research, and fundraising; or simply just being open to listening and having the tough conversations.
In Solidarity… for a better tomorrow…
“No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.” — Dr. Maya Angelou
With peace, warmth, blessings, and solidarity,
Your Sister, Dr. Elsa
“She wasn’t looking for a Knight. She was looking for the Sword.” – Atticus
Thank you for reading and engaging! Please feel free to follow, share my work, and/or learn more about me here on Medium or HERE. I also welcome feedback and discussion. Thank you for your support and wish you well on your mental health, writing and artistic journey!