Stigmas can hold many people in bondage. Out of fear, when someone dies by suicide, I have witnessed first hand, individuals who hold that information closely to them, praying no one will ask them how the person died, or find out it was by suicide. Why? Fear. There is fear of being judged, fear of being ridiculed, and protection for the individual that was loved, not wanting that person to be made less than they were due to one decision they made during their deepest, darkest moment in life.
When I received the coroner’s report that stated my husband had died by suicide, I was faced with a choice. Now that I knew this information, what would I do with it? Opposition was just around the corner, but I chose to break the silence instead of folding from fear. I chose to be freed from stigmas, instead of bound by them. I chose to rise above, instead of suffocate under. I chose to boot stigmas out the door by breaking the silence, instead of living under the cloud of their smoke.
Today, I have learned, I am not alone. Today, I have learned, that a man named Mr. Millben did the same, and it made a difference.
A very good friend of mine forwarded me an article titled, “Third suicide prompts Brampton school to address the subject head on.” The headline caught my attention. I had to read on.
Mr. Millben was the father of the third student who had taken his own life. The article read, “Mr. Millben’s openness has enabled the school to tackle the issue of teen suicide head on, allowing teachers to lead discussions on the topic in every classroom.”
Relieved, hopeful, and feeling that a small, but incredibly significant victory had been won, I found myself being thankful for Mr. Millben after reading this article, for courageously agreeing to make public that his son had taken his own life.
As the article pointed out, Mr. Millben’s willingness to do so, to seek the greater good, and refuse to live under the fear of a possible ignorant back-lash, “enabled the school” to address the issue of suicide with a larger audience of possible at-risk teens. It was also his transparency that gave teachers permission to raise the topic in their classrooms.
If one thinks stigmas have power, one needs to realize the power of rising above. Mr. Millben’s actions could potentially save lives. By bringing to light what is in darkness, what was in darkness suddenly holds less power. If Mr. Millben’s honesty saved one life, or gave one person the strength to seek help, or caused one person to think before they judged someone who committed suicide or lost someone to a death where an individual took their own life, wasn’t it worth it?
The article continues, “What’s happening now at Sandalwood Heights Secondary School fits into a broader movement to build education about mental health and suicide – the second leading cause of death among youth in Canada – into the curriculum of high schools across the country.
“It’s enabled us to have frank and open conversations, which really gives us an ‘in’ with regard to the stigma and taboo that exists around this topic,” said Jim Van Buskirk, chief social worker for the Peel District School Board. “That’s been a huge advantage.”
This is an important article. This is a turn-point article. This article speaks of a significant action of honesty, and vulnerability, that has impacted a school, and may change an entire national curriculum!
Thank you Mr. Millben, thank you school board who listened, and thank you to all those courageous individuals who are breaking the silence of stigmas by sharing their stories. Here is proof that you are making a difference!
To read the full Globe and Mail article, “Third suicide prompts Brampton school to address the subject head on.” click here.