Yesterday The Well was given a gift that prompted not only gratitude but a deep sense of sadness: 600 pairs of shoes, each representing a life lost to suicide in the Greater Dallas area in 2018. This is The Well Community’s sixth year to be the recipient of these shoes, which are donated for the Greater Dallas Suicide Prevention Coalition’s Suicide Awareness Day, and each year we receive them with heavy hearts.
But, despite the loss symbolized in this donation, these pairs also serve as a reminder that our words can help to prevent additional lives from being cut short. In recent years, as our culture has begun to talk about suicide more openly, we’ve become increasingly aware that the way we talk about this issue can hurt those who are struggling—or help them reach out for help.
One simple step we can take is to omit the phrase “committed suicide” from our vocabulary. The word “committed,” which is often used to refer to “committing a crime” or “committing a sin,” can convey a sense of shame and wrongdoing, increasing the stigma that often surrounds mental health challenges—stigma that can prevent those who are considering suicide from sharing their struggles. But phrases like “died by suicide” and “lost his life to suicide” convey that a suicide was a result of a person’s mental health challenges. Talking about suicide in this way is a subtle but powerful way to communicate that a person’s struggles aren’t shameful, and in turn it helps prevent additional loss of life.
Another important factor in preventing suicide is community—the sort of connections found at The Well. Here members find acceptance and support, and can build friendships with others who understand their struggles.
I’m thrilled that, thanks to the overwhelming response on North Texas Giving Day, we’re able to continue to provide a place of belonging and support for those in the Dallas area living with serious mental illnesses. We exceeded our goal, raising $55,549 that will make a life-giving difference for our members. To all of those who gave, thank you! Your generosity gives them a place to belong—a place of hope.