A suicide note a young man wrote before he jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge, read: “I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I won’t jump.”
My younger sister walked into my room after I’d first substantiated jumping out of the window. I was 11. “I know you won’t,” she said, before plopping down on my bed with a book. I sometimes think that it was the conviction in her voice that made me “give up” that night.
It was during that semester in college, when I was so depressed that I’d stopped leaving my room. One morning I found a note pinned to my door. It was from my neighbour, who I barely knew. Amanda wrote that she hadn’t seen me in a while, and wanted to make sure that I was okay. She’d also noticed that I hadn’t been going to class, and she assured me that I could catch up. She’d been sick too, she said, and our professor had helped her out a lot. She offered to let me borrow her notes.
I went back to class.
There was another semester when I was awfully homesick. I hadn’t been home in a year. I’d get dal from the cafe on the worst days, and lock myself up in my room afterwards. The chef at the dal counter would repeatedly say that he wasn’t allowed to give take-away containers with the dal. But, he’d eventually wink, whisper that this would be our little secret, and swear that this was the last time he’d give in to my pleading. I left Ron a thank-you note at the end of the semester. I told him how I’d begun to associate the dal with his laughter, rather than with my urgent need for comfort. I like to think that we’re friends now, even though I rarely get dal these days.
I don’t quite recall the reason, but I remember how unsafe I was feeling that night. I knew I shouldn’t be alone so I went down to the common room at 3 AM, my fingers crossed that I’d see a familiar face. Priya was in the computer lab, printing out her readings. “Can you stay with me for a bit?” I called Campus Police, then hung up after I recollected the last instance that I’d called, and the harassment that had followed. Then, I called the Lifeline. “I’m with a friend; I’ll be safe,” I said. “I just need to talk.”
Priya didn’t ask any questions when I finished, but we talked about movies until dawn.
It’s laughable that even the people who had no idea what I was going through, could rescue me from an impending crisis. I believe that anyone can make an impact to prevent suicide. You don’t have to know someone who’s struggling, and you don’t have to “talk someone out of it.”
Can you remember to smile at a stranger today?
Note: Names have been changed.