In an interview with Oprah, Meghan Markle bravely spoke about a hard truth: she had contemplated suicide during her first pregnancy. The British press has relentlessly attacked Meghan for years, which understandably took a toll on her mental health. To make matters worse, she received no support from the royal family or the institution, even after asking to seek treatment.
Hearing about Meghan's suicidality was heartbreaking enough. Watching people on social media and even on-air personalities like Piers Morgan openly say that they don't believe her was almost as upsetting. I've had suicidal thoughts in the past, and I often remember hearing loved ones say that people who express their hopelessness are being dramatic. While I can't speak to Meghan's experience, I know how much those kinds of comments hurt me. They were and still are invalidating and insensitive. Whenever I'd hear them, my stomach instantly cramped up from anxiety, because I knew the people in my life who were saying these things were aware of my past struggles. I didn't know if I wanted to defend myself and others like me or run and hide.
Too often, people who experience this kind of turmoil are deemed "attention-seeking," when in fact, so much emotional pain stems from feeling isolated and silenced. Judging those who are struggling or saying something insensitive only keeps them in the shadows longer and makes reaching out for support that much harder. What makes this situation especially grave is feelings of loneliness and alienation are risk factors for suicide. People who are feeling this hopeless need to know that they can safely reach out and be supported in their pain, and discourse like we've seen this week lessens the chances of that happening.
It doesn't matter if you've never said, "I don't believe you," directly to someone who has contemplated suicide. No one ever said it to me, but over time, I realized that some of my loved ones don't always believe people who say they're in pain. When you openly share your disbelief of public figures like Meghan, it's your own friends and family who hear you. Friends and family who may one day need your support.
When I wasn't sure who in my life would be most supportive, I listened to the ways my friends and family talked about other people with depression.
The consequences can be dangerous. I know I wouldn't have felt comfortable going to people who made comments like Piers did, and I also know how vital the support from my loved ones was in keeping me alive. I've always been one to lean on my best friends, and I don't want to think where I might be today had I heard them say something cruel about Robin Williams, for example, who died by suicide at a time when I was feeling incredibly low.
Ultimately, it's not our place to question someone's feelings or intentions — even a celebrity's — because we aren't in their shoes. When I wasn't sure who in my life would be most supportive, I listened to the ways my friends and family talked about other people with depression. It seems clear to me then that, when we show support for celebrities like Meghan, we signal to the people closest to us that we're in their corner, too.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal ideation or are at risk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has several resources and a 24/7 lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.