Stress, spiraling and suicide: ‘Mental health’ may be a buzzword, but reality isn’t as simple

Michael Sicoli, Editor-in-Chief

Suicide has always been an important topic to me.

That may seem like an obvious statement in 2021 with people finally “woke” about mental health issues. Maybe it was clear-cut given the gravity that suicide commands.

Yet, despite September being Suicide Prevention Month, suicide doesn’t garner the talk it should. People don’t understand the thought process behind suicide. While it’s overdue that mental health is in the limelight, the generality of the term has masked the hideosity of suicide.

Illustration by Xavier Cullen

Depression and anxiety are the stepping stones. The stress of life such as sudden changes in routine or lifestyle can alter one’s mindset. It’s not as simple as calling someone a “glass-half-empty” type of person. One could have a pleasant day where everything goes right, and those nagging thoughts can drag them back down to a point of despair.

Imagine winning a competition, driving home with cheering friends and then dropping them off and heading inside. It could take just a single negative thought to affect a person’s mental state and lead to them spiraling before even reaching the door.

Spiraling isn’t in our common vernacular like depression and anxiety, but it directly ties into both. Essentially, it’s when something bad happens or a negative thought buries itself in your mind. For example, you remember that you forgot to pick up your friend from his appointment. And then you remember that you left that person you were interested in on “open” for one minute too long. And then you realize that you forgot to lock your car. And then you drop your keys at the door.

When you spiral, those tiny screw-ups get compounded tenfold. It creates the feeling that the world is crashing around you, and you can’t grab a foothold. When you couple that with depression and anxiety, it can lead you to that final step.

Suicide can be planned or it can be spontaneous. It can be public or private. It can leave someone saying, “I should’ve done something” or “I had no idea.”

There’s no universal look for suicide. Someone can be spiraling after months of fighting depression, anxiety, stress and all that those entail. They’re driving at night, and say, “Screw it, I’m running through that stop sign, I don’t care what happens.”

The car speeds up, it blows through the sign, and a rush of relief, anger and disappointment flood the mind.

Or maybe that’s the moment where another car goes through. Maybe it’s a month after, a year or never. But these mental breakdowns come more often than people care to admit. The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention estimated that over 1.38 million Americans attempted to kill themselves in 2019. On average, there are 139 suicides a day in the U.S.

What brings those on the brink back to shore is an anchor point, something that reminds them why they keep going. For many, it’s loved ones. For some, its faith. For not nearly enough, it’s self-worth.

Depression, anxiety and stress — so much of it can derive from a lack of self-worth, which is an intangible measurement of how much you value yourself. The key phrase there is “you value yourself.” Self-worth does not come from how much others love you or how much they appreciate you. It needs to come from within, an acknowledgement of the struggles you have overcome, the work you have put in, and the goals you will eventually accomplish.

Do you remember the impact you have on others, that small moment where you held the door open and made that guy smile? What about when you got a good grade on a test after you put hours of prep work in?

It helps to have faith or a support system. Both have been ironclad grips for myself in trying times, but self-worth is invaluable in that it comes from within.

If you have a friend who jokes about self-harm, check up on them. It most likely is just a joke, but ask a very easy question: “Are you OK?”

Check up on your loved ones. Here at Quinnipiac University, we have the luxury of a counseling system, but not everyone knows how to utilize it or wants to label their feelings in such a clinical sense. Elsewhere, there may not be a counseling system to use.

I get it. It’s there if you want it, but the very least we can do is check up on each other.

Nobody can imagine the pain that suicide brings to everyone around them. No one certainly can’t imagine what drove a person to that point. But being responsible as a friend and recognizing what a suicidal path can entail is critical toward suicide prevention.

If you are in my life in any constant form, I assure you that you have contributed to keeping me going over the last 20 years. Building up that self-worth is a revelation I’ve worked on in recent years, with growing pains here and there. Thank you.

Do your best to educate yourself and make a difference. If you are hurting, seek help, stay strong and love yourself. Realize you deserve happiness because, in this world, you don’t get nearly enough reminders.