The struggle is real

Carolyn Latkovich

Editor’s Note: This week Greater Media Newspapers examine a few of the struggles faced by families and individuals in Central New Jersey. This begins an occasional series on some of the physical, emotional, and mental health challenges and successes experienced by our readers.

Forty seconds is about the time that it takes to brush your teeth, post a picture on social media, or watch a television commercial. According to a 2014 World Health Organization report, every 40 seconds another person is lost to suicide. There are roughly 800,000 deaths by suicide per year. There are countless other attempts. In the time that it takes to read this article, more lives will be lost. When it comes to the suicide prevention movement, the struggle is real.

Much time was spent contemplating the name of this section about life’s trials and tribulations. First, real topics of concern needed to be defined. Every day people exaggerate their problems and spin them into tales that are jokingly referred to as “the struggle.” The barista forgot that she likes three sugars, the struggle is real. There are no parking spots left at the post office, the struggle is real. (She actually had to mail something and couldn’t pay online? What a struggle!) The power cord on his computer won’t reach the wall from the couch, the struggle is real. This section aims to address the REAL struggles, not these minor mislabeled inconveniences.

The information in this section is rooted in true societal struggles. It is of the utmost importance that we address real struggles in order to raise awareness and especially to provide hope. Having honest dialogue about real issues can be uncomfortable. However, honesty and openness can save lives too.

Since suicide and suicidal thoughts are so prevalent in the United States, organizations such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are working together to raise awareness. The stigma associated with having a mental health issue and reaching out for professional help is just part of the struggle. People continue to use phrases such as “jump off a bridge” or “just kill me now.” At some point, these became acceptable in our daily conversation. Many say or hear things like this daily and never think twice. For those of us who have lost someone to suicide, these words have meaning. Suicide is not exactly a comfortable topic of conversation. The question became, how does society talk openly about loss and create a safe space for those in dark places?

Mental health advocacy and acceptance groups such as Active Minds, The Trevor Project, and To Write Love on Her Arms were created to help those struggling find resources and hope. The semicolon tattoo, also known as Project Semicolon, has become the latest way for those battling and overcoming mental health issues to express their struggle. A writer has a choice when separating clauses: use a semicolon or end the sentence and begin a new one. The semicolon tattoo is a powerful metaphor for choosing to continue on when one has the option to end things. The tattoo can be drawn on with marker or permanently inked to skin, but it has the same conversation-starting ability either way.

The most powerful way to combat the growing suicide statistics is conversation. Whether a tattoo, t-shirt, or genuine look of concern starts the conversation, have it. Reach out and check on people. Don’t allow silence to be an indicator that things are alright. If we can take care of each other even just a little bit, the struggle won’t feel so real.

For more information and life-saving resources visit:

Active Minds:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Project Semicolon:

To Write Love on Her Arms:

The Trevor Project: