You are not alone.
While this post does speak on Bobby’s own depression after his brother’s assassination, it is more focused about the horrible truth that is slowly permeating throughout our society: suicides are up, roughly 30% since 1999. The growth of this disease known as mental illness, in my opinion, stems from a few issues that must be spoken of, put out in the open without fear, and dealt with in a manner that neither negates or punishes those who have feelings of worthlessness, depression, mania, self-harm, or suicide.
We live in a society that today stresses the need to get so much done that it stretches us thin. You’re expected to go to college after high school, attain a degree then go back for a graduate degree if you “really” want to succeed in this world, at least that’s what they say. Once you’ve done that, and if you’re not burdened down by mountains of debt, you’re expected to work for companies and organizations that demand the work of two or more people for pay that, frankly, is laughable at even being considered a livable wage.
We burn out early because of the stress of work and whatever is going on outside of it. Some of us have family problems. Some of us suffer addictions to various substances, whether it be from alcohol or a victim of the ongoing opioid epidemic. Employers now care less about their employees’ well-being and more about profits and earnings. They care little about your ability to thrive in the workplace because they know that once you burn out they’ll simply hire someone younger who doesn’t know the turmoils of life, yet.
Many of us suffer from a form of mental illness, some diagnosed while most are not, and our country has stigmatized these illnesses from the various other forms of physical illnesses that people live with. For decades if you were depressed you were either told to suck it up or it wasn’t spoken about at all. Few people understand that the pain of a mental illness can be just as awful, if not worse, than a physical illness. They should be considered on the same plane, yet they aren’t. This is our greatest failure for those who suffer from these illnesses. They leave us feeling alone, broken, and irreparable.
It drives us to isolation, self-harm, self-destructive behavior, and, eventually, suicide, unless we receive the proper treatment we need.
I’ve lost several people in my life to suicide. I know many people, including myself, who suffer from a mental illness. I, myself, am a survivor of a suicide attempt, and I’m not afraid to speak about it, for those things we sweep and hide under the carpet eventually become too difficult to hide over time.
When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, his brother, Robert Kennedy, fell into a deep depression. He wore Jack’s coat wherever he went, to remind him of his brother, and when anyone applauded his work or success he always pushed down his ego by stating that they weren’t clapping for him but for his brother, that was taken away from them too soon.
He suffered incredibly, and those closest to him could see it. He grew bags under his eyes. He would have crying spells. At the 1964 Democratic Convention, there was a 22-minute standing ovation without a break for Robert Kennedy when he stood to introduce a short film on his brother who had passed away less than a year before. He stood tall and took in the applause, but after he left the stage he exited the building and sobbed incredibly because of the loss he still suffered from. In fact, for the rest of his life, Bobby would always be reminded this loss.
What he did with that pain, though, is something we, unfortunately, do not find much of in this world now. He took his suffering and used it as a way to empathize with others. He would visit the poorest areas of New York, the South, or Appalachia and weep at what he witnessed. He knew he had to reach out his hand to anyone who needed it because he knew that there would never be a hand for some of these people.
The same goes for today. We don’t reach our hand out that much anymore. We’re focused on what’s going on our lives, and that’s it. Imagine what this country or world would be like if we asked those people in our lives that are suffering how they felt? Imagine how those people would feel if we simply said: “I’m here if you need me.” We don’t need to offer a solution. We just need to let them know that they are not alone.
And you’re not alone. No one is. Not now, not ever. Even when the darkest moments happen in our lives and we hit rock bottom, the only place we can go from there is up and towards the light.
If you are thinking of self-harming or committing suicide, please reach out for help. It’s not a form of cowardice. It is, in fact, one of the bravest things you could ever do.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889)
- The Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.