“Everyone has their story…you can’t hear it if they’re silenced.” – Danielle (SLF 2014 Day of Silence participant)
Today, we remember the life of George Kazanjian and mourn his unfortunate and untimely passing. Six years ago, on this day, George made the decision to tragically end his life. His passing left an immense impact on many lives – people that were close to him and strangers that he would never get to meet. George’s struggle may, unfortunately, be a feeling that is far too familiar to anyone who has ever struggled with their mental health. People – like George – who suffer from suicidal thoughts often feel hopeless, that they have no support and may become terrified to live.
While we will never know the extent of George’s internal conflict, we recognize the all-consuming fear, uncontrollable feelings of loneliness and overshadowing desperation that he must have been struggling with that led him to take his own life. We must recognize his story as a lesson: a lesson in truth, a lesson in love, a lesson in family.
There is no single cause for suicide. Sometimes, people who consider suicide do not necessarily want to die; they may not know how to cope with or eliminate the pain that they are experiencing. Persons who are considering ending their lives often display changes in behaviors that may include increased bouts of sadness, depression or aggression, heightened emotional and social withdrawal, frequent talking about having no reason to live or feeling trapped or being a burden.
In our short film A Safe Space, George’s mother recounts the heart-breaking ordeal and talks about the lack of safe spaces for young people to use as an outlet. There is a fundamental need to foster a relationship of trust, honesty and open communication in our homes and schools. We, in the wider Caribbean, must do more to change the parochial attitude that we have towards mental health awareness and treatment. This mind-set only serves as a hindrance to people, especially our youth, reaching their fullest potential. We remind you that seeking help does not imply that you are weak; it only demonstrates that you recognize the strength of your will to live. SLF has and will continue to encourage persons to seek out help if they believe that they suffer from thoughts of suicide. There is always someone who cares and there is always someone that will listen.
We must do more to end bullying and peer pressure and to encourage the development and sustainability of safer spaces to have open and honest dialogue. We must remind each other that help is available and that several people who actively address their mental health condition(s) lead productive and enjoyable lives. We must begin the groundwork for the creation of these safer spaces and to take a serious and active role in tackling bullying and mental health awareness.
We take this moment to reflect on George’s light – a light that was sadly dimmed too early but a light that sparked a fire in us to work towards creating a better world. This tragedy will never be in vain. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with George and his family and all who unfortunately ended their struggle with feeling like they had to endure this pain by themselves.. Eternal rest, eternal life be unto you, George. Rest in peace and know that you are loved and you are missed.
If you know someone who is suicidal or are suicidal yourself, getting professional assistance and learning suicide prevention strategies can be of great help. If you feel like there is no one that you can talk to who will listen with compassion and respect, seek out suicide prevention lines to refer you to accessible resources or contact any of the following:
- Childline (toll free, 24-Hours): (868) 800-4321
- Lifeline (24-Hour): (868) 645-2800
- Families in Action 24-Hour Hotline: 628-2333
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-7283
Please also view our short film, “A Safe Space”: