In a perfect world, a smile wouldn’t have a secret hidden behind it. It would just mean you’re genuinely happy, expressing the lightheartedness you feel inside. There wouldn’t be any dark undertones that people would have to analyze and figure out. It would just be a physical form to show happiness.

But this isn’t a perfect world and a smile can be misconstrued in a thousand different ways. The most common right now is the smile that is mistaken for happiness when in fact, it’s being used as a shield to mask the immense amount of anguish and demons that are taking up residence inside a person… without anyone having the slightest inclination that something is very wrong.

Two celebrity suicides in less than a week. God only knows how many more are happening now or have happened that are not in the public eye. How about the people that are still struggling emotionally? still keeping up the façade through their smile? I’m glad mental health, depression and mental illness are being talked about more now…but it’s heartbreaking we’ve had to lose lives along the way for these voices to finally be heard.

Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It’s always been looked at as a “phase”, a state of mind that is “fake,” and an attempt to gain “attention.” Really? [Insert name here] has died. Cause of death: suicide. Reason: “suffered from depression and anxiety,” “battling personal demons.” Is their name on their tombstone still fake to you? Think it’s just a phase that will pass once you give it an appropriate amount of time?

Kids. Young adults. They’re taking their lives. Grown men and women are holding on by a single thread just hoping it’ll snap… because then that’ll mean they won’t be a burden to this world anymore and they’ll finally be free. This world has made them feel as if they are excess baggage just needing to be thrown out. We cannot keep ignoring the signs and convincing ourselves that the issues will go away.

Once something shatters, it’s never the same again

We cannot keep using the same phrase, ‘something was off, “but I didn’t think anything of it.’” We cannot be so trusting of the smile our loved ones give us because we’ve been programmed in our nature to not speak out unless we are spoken to. It doesn’t get more real than finding that body, receiving that phone call or watching that casket go 6 feet underground.

Mental illness is real. Demons are real. And death is very much real in the minds of those who truly believe there’s no other way out. It’s time to fight alongside them rather than against them. Listen to their voices, pay attention to their actions, and don’t be so naïve into thinking every smile is trustworthy. Give them the reason to stay. Because the world without them shatters a little more… And once something shatters, it’s never the same again.