No matter how alone you feel, there's always someone right in front of you who wants to help you.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
Many of you don't know this (and some of you do) but one of my older brothers committed suicide in 2001 when he was 19 years old.
I can still vividly recall the police officer calling me out as I made my way down the stairwell at uni after class and being led to the faculty office where my mum's best friend was waiting for me - not my mum or dad but my mum's best friend - my whole body was instantly gripped in fear; there could only be one reason she came to get me instead of my parents: something had happened to my parents.
So many people who say that they would do this or they'd do that if this ever happened to them or that ever happened to them but I'm telling you now, no one - and I mean absolutely no one - knows exactly what they would do if they're ever faced with any extreme situation. When the police officer told me that my brother had committed suicide, I screamed. And screamed. And screamed a little bit more.
The aftermath of suicide is awful. My other brother and I think about moments we had with Carlin leading up to the day he died and we sometimes think that if we'd done this or that we could've changed his mind. And, as nearly every parent of a suicide victim does, our parents, who've both passed away since then, blamed themselves for Carlin's suicide. Not only did they have to deal with one of their children dying but they had to deal with the thought that their child was in such a state of mind that he had decided that he couldn't face life any longer and that they didn't do anything to try to help him.
What we need to realise is, no matter how many things we think we could've done to try to prevent Carlin from jumping off that cliff, it was not our fault. I know that now. You can tell a parent or other family member or friend until they're blue in the face that it's not their fault but it's another thing for that person to actually realise and accept that fact and come to terms with that. In other words, it's a lot easier said than done. In the four years that my mother lived after Carlin's death, I don't think she ever fully realised that she wasn't to blame - this is probably the part that gets me the most nowadays. I've already come to terms that Carlin is gone but it still makes me sad that my mother died without being able to fully realise that she wasn't to blame for his death.
Sometimes I wonder if the social media age might've made a difference to help Carlin when he needed it. There is just so much more information and help that's available and so easily accessible now compared to 15 years ago. He was well into computers (he used to pull them apart and put them back together again and still worked fine) that I'm sure he would've been on social media had it existed back then.
'Suicide' is not a dirty word; it's not a taboo subject. It's about life and death and trying to save your loved ones; it's about talking about it so that your loved ones can see that they are worth saving and that their life is worth living. It's about showing them how amazing life will be if they let people help them through whatever they may be going through and that they are not alone.
Suicide is also about supporting our friends and family who have lost someone else to suicide already. You don't have to keep quiet about it; suicide is not a reflection of you or your family; it is not something to feel ashamed of; it does not bring shame to your family.
In hindsight we can see the signs that something was wrong but we missed it. That's why when we see our family and friends, if something doesn't seem quite right, we need to ask that important question: Are you okay?
And following up on that question is even more important.