Soon after kathlaw took her own life, I remember uneasily skimming the papers, wondering what sort of mention her death would get.
I did not expect what I found: complete silence.
Possibly I just missed the notice; or possibly things were complicated by the fact that Katherine lived in one Arizona county and died in another. But I got to thinking about it: how often do you ever see reports of suicides in the local paper–in any paper? Most of what’s reported are suicide/homicides, cases where there was another crime involved. Or else the details are kept carefully vague, mention of a death but not a cause.
I was stunned, when I began talking to friends and acquaintances about this, to realize that what seemed like half of them already knew someone who had killed themselves. For all that we talk about suicide in the abstract, until Katherine died, I had no idea how many people’s lives were actually affected.
Probably our silence–in print and when talking to one another–is meant as kindness, and comes from an understandable desire to protect the victims and their loved ones, because there’s still a fair amount of shame attached. But I think perhaps we’re doing ourselves a disservice, because in doing so, we hide how common this really is.
All of which I say not to depress my journal readers, but because klwilliams is doing something about it. This July, she’ll be walking from dawn to dusk to raise money for suicide prevention as part of the Out of the Darkness Overnight. I consider 10 miles, in daylight, a good day’s hiking; Karen will be walking 20 miles, through the night, to raise awareness and raise funds.
I’m very glad she’s doing it.
If you’re interested in helping out–or even in just learning more about the walk, which is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention–her donation page is here.