Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, help is available. Dial or text 988 or visit 988lifeline.org for free and confidential support.
(CNN) — When Sam Maya, a beloved husband, father, friend, stockbroker, and coach, committed suicide 16 years ago, he left a note. He apologized to her wife, Charlotte, for being a burden and told her and her two children, who were then 6 and 8 years old, that he loved them.
In her harrowing recent memoir, “Sushi Tuesdays: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Family Resilience,” Charlotte Maya bears witness to Sam’s life, death, and aftermath with a singular purpose: to humanize the face of suicide and Help readers become fluent in talking about mental health.
He spent nearly a decade writing “Sushi Tuesdays,” starting with a blog of the same namea tribute to the weekly ritual she created after the death of her husband.
Every Tuesday, while her children were at school, Maya put aside her daunting to-do list as a lawyer and widowed single mother. Tuesdays she’d start with a yoga class, then therapy, followed by whatever she needed most: maybe back to bed, a hike, or solo sushi.
I met Maya at a memory workshop last year. I have a family history of mental illness and suicide, so I connected with her work and her motivation to share her story.
A wake-up call about suicide
In 2021, suicide was the second leading cause of death among Americans ages 10-34, fifth among those 35-54, and eleventh nationwide, taking the lives of more than 48,000 peopleaccording to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The suicide rate among men in 2021 was almost four times higher than that of women, according to the CDC. According to Dr. Ashwini Nadkarni, a psychiatrist and researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, research supports the hypothesis that men tend to choose more effective and lethal means of committing suicide.
Also, men are less likely to seek treatment for depression because of gender expectations that equate masculinity with emotional stoicism, Nadkarni said.
Suicide is a national health crisis, Maya told me, but when we hear of a loss like this, we often attribute each death to the specific problem the deceased was facing, such as financial or legal issues.
According to her, these stress factors do not explain the suicide. “A lot of people lose money and don’t take their own life. They work things out.”
When her husband died, Maya knew his back hurt and he was stressed about work and money, but she didn’t think these things added up to suicide. In hindsight, she can now spot clues, like the review of her will shortly before she died.
“I wanted to go back in time after Sam died,” he says. “I felt so strongly that if I could have gone back to that morning, I could have changed everything. It’s hard to face what can’t be undone, what I did or didn’t do, where I failed, where Sam failed.”
Talk about mental health issues
“Whenever I say that Sam made a mistake, the mistake I mean is that he didn’t ask for help,” says Maya. “It’s hard to say you’re hurting when you’re hurting, so let your loved ones know you’re available to help.”
Asking people directly about suicidal thoughts may reduce, rather than increase, suicidal thinking, according to a 2014 review of the academic literature in the journal Psychological Medicine.
This requires people to look for and notice signs that others may be suffering, such as changes in mood, behavior, appetite or sleep habits, or getting rid of prized possessions.
Talking directly about mental health became a hallmark of Maya’s solo parenthood. Her goal was for her children to “live full and fruitful lives, not defined by her father’s suicide, not limited by her father’s suicide, but also not ignorant of it.”
His sons mourned their father in their own ways, in denial (one pretended their father was away on a long business trip), and in rages that ended in destroyed Lego sets and tears. Maya mourned with them the “daddy-shaped space in their hearts,” but she promised them that one day they would be able to say, “I survived my father’s suicide and I can do anything.”
“Let people show up and help”
“It can be awkward to say yes when people ask you for help,” Maya said. “Because she was so shocked and overwhelmed, I just said yes. I recommend people to act like that. Let people come forward and help you.”
Maya’s village support was so great that she had to decide which of her friends would be full-fledged characters in “Sushi Tuesdays” and which would appear as cameos.
Faced with this challenge — and the confusion caused by many friends with names beginning with the letter J — she wittily referred to her friends, collectively, as “The Janes.” Given her training as a lawyer, she thought of them as Jane Doe #1, Jane Doe #2, and so on.
In the book, readers meet prosecutor Jane, who helped in the coroner’s office, engineer Jane, who gets the kids to school on time every day, and prayer warrior Jane, who prays for Maya while she “doesn’t exactly talk to God.”
One friend, identified not as “Jane” but as “Bess” in the narration, is Katherine Tasheff, a college friend of Rice’s. When Sam Maya died, Tasheff was a single mother living on little money in Brooklyn, so she couldn’t travel to California to visit him. So she did what she could: she wrote her friend an email. And then another. And one more. Morning and night for 365 days after Sam’s death.
Finding humor, even in pain
The emails were always sincere and genuine, but often laced with dark humor. In one, Tasheff wrote: “We did an informal poll about which husband was most likely to take his own life, and I want you to know that Sam came in last.”
Almost immediately, Charlotte Maya shot back, “Last to die?”
These kinds of jokes buoyed Maya, who told her therapist to “call 911” if she ever lost her sense of humor. According to her, finding moments of frivolity helped her hold on to her humanity. “Humor doesn’t cancel out what’s devastating,” Maya told me. “Just like gratitude can’t override what’s horrible. What’s important is having the ability to sustain both.”
Create your own self-care ritual “Sushi Tuesdays”
Seven years after her husband’s death in 2014, Maya felt ready to write about her survival of suicide. Tasheff acted with her characteristic speed and created a blog for sushituesdays.com in less than an hour.
By then, Maya had met and married the most eligible widower in her town, now nicknamed Mr. Page 179 because that’s where he appears in the book. They each brought two children to the marriage. (Coincidentally, they each have a son named Daniel, so now they have two Daniels.)
Maya continues to honor her Tuesdays with therapy and yoga, a hike with a friend, and sometimes a sushi lunch.
She urges everyone — especially single-parent families and those suffering from anxiety or depression — to set aside a similar weekly ritual, even if it’s just an hour to “treat yourself with the same compassion you treat your closest friends.” dear ones”.
These coping mechanisms can protect us
According to psychologist Lauren Kerwin, the coping mechanisms Maya resorted to in her grief may further explain the gender disparity in suicide rates.
Men are less likely to have strong support networks or to commit to them when experiencing stress or emotional pain, and are more likely to use maladaptive coping strategies, such as substance abuse or isolation, Kerwin notes.
Seeking social connection and professional help is essential to prevent suicide.
“Now, more than ever, we better understand the neuroinflammatory basis of depression: The medical framework offers us a model in which to view depression as a treatable medical condition,” says Nadkarni, a Boston psychiatrist.
How to help someone who may be at risk of suicide
If you see warning signs or are concerned about someone who may be suffering, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention recommends that you assume that you’re the only one who’s going to hold out your hand. Find a time to talk privately and listen. Let him know that his life matters to you, and ask him directly if he is thinking about suicide. Then encourage him to use the national suicide hotline by calling or texting 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifelineto wear contact your doctor or therapist oh seek treatment.
For assistance outside the US, the International Association for Suicide Prevention provides a global directory of international resources and hotlines. You can also turn to Befrienders Worldwide.
Look here the websites and help lines that can be used in most Latin American countries and Spain.
Jodie Sadowsky is a Connecticut-based writer who focuses on relationships, mental health, and books.
Source: CNN Espanol