The first time I’m reviewing two books in one go.
The first time I’m writing an article about suicide and mental health issues.
I’m glad I’m doing this.Let’s start with the reviews.
Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places has blown me to pieces. The middle is a bit slow, but I love the way the author dropped a bit of information here and there when I least expected it; things about Finch’s childhood, Finch’s dad, Finch’s ex-buddy. We get a close-and-personal look at a charming boy who suffers so much inside and doesn’t know how to save him from himself that he constantly sabotages his own happiness. A heart-wrenching potrayal of a boy who wanted so much to be normal, to be bright, but could not. No matter how hard he tried.
I was carried away with Finch’s charming and fearless personalities on the outside. When he folded himself in the darkness afterward, I was left speechless. It came at such a shocking slap to me. How can he disappear from all of that brightness, is a question I keep asking myself. What triggers it? What happened? He looked so damn happy before. So why, why?
We, the readers, got to see Finch from Violet’s eyes. We’re as charmed as she is. We’re as confused as she is, as angry as she is, as scared, loved, sad, happy as she is. The way Violet looks at Finch, I understand. The way Finch breathes life back to Violet after her traumatic accident, I understand. Sadly, unfortunately, I also understand—and hate—the way Finch’s parents and his bully friends treat him.
This book would cut your heart in two, glue them back together in the next page or so, then crack it open a bit, crack it some more, and glue the pieces back together again. The emotions I’ve experienced are all raw. Roller-coaster is not enough word to describe what I felt. I can still feel how the hair on the back of my neck stood, how my heart dropped to my stomach, and how bitter my mouth tasted.
The strongest part of this book is actually the Author’s Note’s page. I quote “Every forty seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide. Every forty seconds, someone is left behind to cope with the loss.”
I read Gayle Forman’s I was Here next. As usual, Gayle’s words are beautiful and the way she tells the story is flawless. However, the emotions, the romance, and the logic in this story are questionable. Cody is a girl who has to deal with the aftermath of her best friend’s suicide. Cody couldn’t save Meg’s life, but she tried to save Meg in death. Thus began her journey to the past, to revisit Meg’s life, trying to understand what made Meg did what she did. This book, though carrying a heavy and important message, felt more like a school’s textbook, a nonfiction, rather than a YA novel. I’m disappointed but it doesn’t mean I underestimate the importance of her message.
Depression is real, depression is deadly, and depression is not always detectable.
What makes a person depressed, bipolar, suffers panic attacks?
I didn’t study psychology, so I can’t state a definite answer. I only know that depression and other mental health issues are real, as real as the sun in our morning sky. It could happen to anyone, from celebrities like Robin Williams to people who we thought we knew all of our life.
In both books, people who are close to Finch and Meg fail to detect the early signs—the off vibe—from the characters. Or if they know or suspect something, they quickly dismiss it as nothing but harmless and annoying habit. Even when someone decides to do something about it—speak up, urge the person to seek help—their efforts got crushed as the person they try to help push them away. And those good-kind-hearted helpers arrive at a place that says I’ve tried. It’s not my problem anymore. Maybe I should just leave him/her alone.
As illustrated brilliantly by these two books, we will find statements like these:
“We were not friends.” “We were not close.” “That’s the way he/she was.” “He/she wouldn’t listen.” “He/she refused help.” “There’s nothing more we can do.” “He’s a freak.” “She looks so strong and happy. She doesn’t look depressed.”
And we think we do enough by those excuses. We (almost always) expect the person who needs help be the first person who come and ask for help. You know that the chance of that happening is small, right? Sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t.
Imagine how many lives we could’ve saved by being aware, by being persistent and consistent. I grew up in a family culture that doesn’t necessarily respect personal’s boundary the way normal family does. We weren’t taught to leave our family alone, or tiptoe around them. If we notice something is not right, we talk about it—to the person or to his/her closest relatives. For example, if my brother detected some weirdness in me, he would’ve come and talked to me, then to my parents, who would’ve then talked to me and my husband, and basically to everybody else in our family. Yeah, yeah, you’re right. It sounds like hellish torture, but listen. Listen beyond that annoying buzz of people talking.
My point is, at least we talk about IT. We put IT in the open. We attack IT until IT disappears.
By doing this, we force ourselves to be aware. The point is to not leave the person who needs help alone. The point is to show that he/she is not alone in whatever struggle he/she faces.
Awareness is a word with life-and-death changing impact.
Aware = not ignorance = care = not alone = help = not giving up = save lives.
Start small. Start with our family, our best friend, our spouse, our children, our coworkers. Being aware in our small, private circle sometimes is the only thing that could save the life of those we love. Because if we don’t, someone else will, and reading these books, I was stunned—though not entirely surprised—to learn about internet help sites that are ready to help people to commit suicide. Not to prevent it, but to ASSIST suicide.
How many times we heard people said "I didn't know" when it was too late?
I’m a nobody—certainly not a president, or Oprah or Ellen—so I used to think that whatever I say or think would not make much difference.
No, that’s wrong. I’m gonna change that.
I may not be Oprah or Ellen or a famous Youtuber, but I’m not gonna wait until I am one to speak my thoughts. You’re reading this, aren’t you? If you agree with me, if you think it’s important to create more awareness and act more aware, then let’s go. Let’s share the sentiment.
Be aware, be knowledgeable, be consistent.
Your voice matters.
We don’t need to change the whole world. We just need to be strong enough to change the world of that one person who matters to us.