Every 40 seconds, somebody takes their own life.
Two years ago, my friend Arpan was one of them.
Arpan Ghosh was a Plano East student and a childhood friend of mine. Well to be more specific, a friend of my brother. But after all our shared piano lessons and the scar on my right foot, after he chased me off my scooter, I consider him to have been my friend as well.
Arpan was no ordinary boy, he was intelligent beyond expectation. His undeniable brilliance and outstanding pianist skill were truly incomparable. Anyone who had the privilege of even somewhat knowing Arpan, knew there was something oh so special about him. I have no doubt that he would have achieved great things.
Unfortunately, on one cold January day, Arpan took his own life and for reasons you and I could never truly understand.
Arpan’s story is not singular. Over the course of this past year, nearly one million people have taken their own lives and share stories that are all too similar to Arpan’s.
And we let it happen.
Just last year McMillen freshman Sophia Etheridge, took her own life. While I personally didn’t know her, her death was a wake-up call to many. After hearing the news of Sophia’s passing, we all immediately looked at her social media and were in utter shock when we saw Sophia’s very last Instagram post captioned with a haunting phrase. Three simple letters that held such immense power. KMS. An acronym for the phrase “kill myself.” Actually, think about that, this precious and beautiful girl who was in so much pain literally told the world exactly what she was going to do and we ignored her. Sophia told us, practically to our faces, that she was about to end her life and
When we make jokes about suicide and say things like “kms” jokingly, we dilute the gravity and magnitude these statements carry. We make ourselves oblivious to how unforgiving the stupid things we say, truly can be. Yes, I understand bombing a test, a Cowboys loss, and cracking your brand new iPhone screen are all arguably “devastating” events. However, tweeting something like “bye guys you’ll never see me again”, “i hate my life”, “death save me”, or “lol I’m gonna kill myself” over such petty and trivial matters, is not funny at all.
When we joke about such things we undermine the real meaning these statements carry. We indirectly tell our friends with suicidal thoughts and incomprehensible mental issues, that their illness, their sorrow, their pain— is a joke to us.
Now don’t get me wrong, anyone who knows me knows that practically all of my humor comes from things that are totally and utterly offensive. Even I can’t help but crack a smile at a GIF of Kermit the Frog jumping out of a building. But if you stop and think about it, jokes of this category are actually pretty sickening. Seriously, we’re joking and laughing about ending our own lives— how is that, in any way, funny? This type of comedy is so deeply embedded in our modern culture that we don’t even pause for a second to notice that what we’re saying is SO wrong. I promise you, if you take the time to stop and notice one day, you will undoubtedly come across some type of comedic suicidal reference. Whether it be someone mimicking a handgun being shot to their head, a picture of someone pretending to drink bleach, someone saying “kill me” or “i just want to die” because they had a physics test, or tweeting a meme of some kind, I promise you will see it.
But, HELLO PEOPLE suicide is the SECOND leading cause of teen death in our country today. THE SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH! This practically means that the second leading killer of teens in the United States is not cancer, or heart disease, or car accidents, or murder— but themselves. Not birth defects, or AIDS, or strokes, or malaria— but themselves. Not pneumonia, or influenza, or leukemia, or chronic lung disease— but themselves.
More teens kill themselves each year than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
The second leading killer of teens is themselves.
Think about that.
How can that possibly not mean something to you?
Suicide and mental illness are not things that rarely happen to a few people that we “barely even know.” Mental illness is literally all around us. Nearly 20% of all American teens are mentally ill, and nearly 90% of Americans who commit suicide have mental illnesses. These past few years have had too many stories of too many kids who died too soon. Chances are you probably know someone who has taken their own life not too long ago. Nearly 4 out of every 5 teens that kill themselves, have shown clear and evident warning signs, so how come we’ve allowed suicide to become one of the leading causes of teen death? The answer is simple. We just don’t know and we just don’t care.
In my hometown, nearly five students have committed suicide and instead of facilitating honest discussion, awareness programs and taking preventive action, we too often find ourselves ignoring suicide and doing absolutely nothing because suicide is “just too depressing to talk about.” It’s exponentially easier to just sweep suicide under the rug, cross our fingers and hope another kid isn’t found dead in their room, than to stand up to things that make us uncomfortable.
The most important thing in solving any problem, is by acknowledging the fact that there even is one. We keep trying to deny what we cannot deny. If we really, truly want to address suicide, we have to do more than just posting a suicide hotline around school, retweeting something like “lol don’t kill yourself”, or talking about suicide only when it happens to someone we know. We need to move beyond simple awareness campaigns and reshape how our society addresses mental health issues. We have to care about suicide every day and suicide prevention all the time. We need to convince our politicians, presidents, and principals to support the implementation of proven suicide prevention programs, instead of just turning a blind eye towards it.
It’s easy to keep scrolling. It’s easy to just laugh at things that make us uncomfortable, it’s easy to turn a blind eye to things that have nothing to do with us.
It’s easy to not care.
But we have to.
Because turning our backs on suicide prevention is just as deadly as turning our backs on the people we so deeply love. When we ignore how detrimental suicide is, we turn our back on our best friend with a gun to their head, our older brother with a bottle of pills in his hand, our classmate tying a noose, or our childhood friend standing on the ledge of a highway. When we not only blindly ignore, but blatantly choose to ignore suicide, we practically hand a loaded gun to our best friend, open the pill bottle for our brother, help tighten the noose for the boy in our chemistry class, offer up a hand to our friend getting onto that highway ledge.
By being ignorant, we choose to let the people we love kill themselves.
Life is hard. But, life is also the most beautiful and precious thing our Creator has ever given us. As human beings, it is not only our moral duty, but our job to stand up and speak up for one another. If we even remotely sense something is wrong, even with someone we might barely even know, there is no question whether or not we should get them help. The answer is always yes.
Every day since that cold January day, I think about Arpan. His loss not only affected me, but everyone who knew him. Every time I drive past his house, or play the piano, or see the gigantic scar on my foot, I remember Arpan. Every time I see his mother, or his father, or the little brother he left behind, I miss Arpan. And every single time I see or hear a joke about suicide, I think about Arpan or Sophia or Kate or Ritu or Joseph and all the friends we lost these past few years to suicide, and my heart hurts just a little bit more.
Arpan’s death is not funny to me and suicide should not be funny to you either.
Teachers should not have to look at an empty seat, best friends should not have eat lunch alone, and parents should never have to bury their babies.
We absolutely cannot let the people we love blow their brains out, hang themselves, overdose, or jump off of highways, because of our ignorance. My friend Arpan could’ve easily been your older brother or your best friend. The time to take a stand against suicide is now. Because losing one million people to suicide each year should not be a statistic that we turn our backs to. Suicide is serious and it’s time we treat is rightfully so.
There are tears in my eyes while writing this, and if I could bold every single word in this article, I would. That’s how important this is to me.
As Martin Luther King Jr. so once eloquently said, “The words of our enemies, is not nearly as deadly as the silence of our friends.”
Please read, please share, and more than anything— please speak up.
Don’t stay silent and risk losing someone you love forever.