As the High Holiday season begins and we think about being written in the Book of Life in the new year, I am thinking about a different book.
Many years ago, my husband, Adam, read a novel (a rare occurrence for him — he tended to read business articles over fiction) and absolutely loved it. He insisted I read this book, because he was sure I would love it as well and we could discuss it. I read it in a few days and really did love it.
Adam couldn’t wait to talk about the climax of the story— when one of the main characters disappears under the water after rescuing a child from a raging river during a torrential storm. “I can’t believe he dies!” was the first thing Adam said to me when I closed the book.
“What are you talking about? Nobody dies,” I replied.
“Yes!” he insisted. “The main character dies saving the kid!”
“We must have read different stories!” I replied. “The man comes out of the woods a few hours later, unscathed. It’s a miracle! They all live happily ever after.”
“You are kidding. The book got so intense that I just skipped to the end. I wasn’t patient enough to see it through. I skipped to the last page. That guy wasn’t on the last page, so I just assumed he had really died.”
I laughed so much about that silly occurrence. That Adam had loved the book enough to have me read it, when he didn’t actually read all of it himself. I thought to myself, “Why bother to read at all if you aren’t going to take in all of the details, no matter how painful or wonderful they may be!”
I hadn’t thought about that story in a long time, until a few weeks ago when I was scrolling through LinkedIn. I came across this post from speaker/thought leader Jacob Brown:
I can’t get this post out of my head.
A few years after my husband failed to read the entire novel, he took another shortcut in his life. Instead of embracing all the moments, good and bad, he found himself in a place so intense and so painful that he couldn’t push through. He said goodbye to me, to our children, to our dog, and he drove away from our house to take his own life.
After he died, our family, friends and community were shocked and bereaved. How could the happy, funny, always-there-for-you Adam Greenberg have died by suicide? How did they not know of his struggles?
The truth is, like Adam, many people suffer from mental illnesses in silence. They are so wrapped up in the darkness and pain that they can’t find a way to get through to the light to ask for help. To see many others have been on this journey and can provide support and comfort. To learn their family and friends will embrace them as they undergo treatment. To know it is worth it to keep going to find out what happens next.
I’m proud to be part of the Blue Dove Foundation. To drive an organization that sparks conversation and education around mental health. We must make the narrative around all mental diseases (yes, diseases) — anxiety, depression, OCD, addiction and all the others — one everyone can hear and make their way through.
During National Suicide Prevention Month, the month of Elul leading up to the High Holidays and always, I encourage you to discuss and learn about mental health in a nonjudgmental way in the new year. If your loved ones won’t ask — or can’t ask — for help, ask for help for yourself. The Mishnah says, “Whoever saves one life saves the world.” Be it your own or the life of someone you love, everyone deserves to see what miracle might happen next. And you might end up in your own happily ever after if you can just get through. Shana Tova.
Interested in additional resources about suicide prevention? Visit our Suicide Prevention resource collection, Every Life Counts.
By Jennifer Greenberg, Co-President of the Blue Dove Foundation.