Editor’s Note: Maria Sallese, who lost her son Mario, submitted the following essay to her local newspaper last year. We have asked her permission to reprint her words here. Thank you, Maria, for your commitment to lessening the stigma around mental illness and suicide.
“The month of September is recognized nationwide as Suicide Prevention month and September 10th is recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day. Having lost my child to suicide, the slogans surrounding this month have their pangs. The ones declaring ‘Suicide Is Preventable’ tend to leave many who’ve lost a loved one to suicide feeling at fault for not being able to save their person.
I could not prevent my son from taking his life and I cannot say with firm resolve that suicide IS preventable. In some cases, it is, but I don’t believe it can be said as a matter of fact for all. Still, I believe the ultimate message of the campaigns is important, and equally so are the efforts of raising awareness of this crisis.
According to the CDC:
More than 47,500 people in the United States died by suicide in 2019 (about 1 death every 11 minutes)
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10-34, the fourth among people 34-54, and the fifth among people 45-54.
Of equal importance, I believe, is raising awareness of the fact that mental health illness is as real as any other and one that we should speak openly and unashamedly about. Our doing so will help remove the stigma, encouraging others to do the same, while supporting those in need of help to be unafraid and unashamed to ask. I believe that is a step toward prevention and it is where I hope to lend my voice.
I will never be anything less than proud of my son. Behind his loud presence and raw sense of humor, he struggled with anxiety and depression – but how he died will never define who he was. His life was large and his love was deep.
In sharing his story I wish to convey this message. It’s okay to say that you’re not okay and asking for help is always brave and courageous. You matter and you make a difference. You are loved and the world will always be a better place with you in it.”