Skateboarding: sometimes, we just want to stomp in the middle of the skateboard to break it | Photo: Shutterstock

Before we go any further, I acknowledge that suicide is a sensitive topic that can have a large impact on those close to the person who has taken their own life.

Through this topic, I would like to debunk some myths around suicide and explore it through the metaphor of focusing on your skateboard when one deliberately and continually stomps in the middle of the skateboard to break it.

Suicide takes place over a drawn-out process and is the end of the line for someone experiencing a range of overwhelming and stressful emotions in their life over a prolonged period.

Usually, suicide occurs when the person has had these overwhelming emotional experiences built up without healthy ways to address and process these.

They feel like they can no longer cope with the conditions that they are facing in their lives.

It is an escape from these experiences with the intention of not coming back. It's an exit from their present state of experiencing life.

Focusing on a skateboard has its parallels.

Perhaps you may have focused on your skateboard when you felt like skating was not working out for you, you were feeling the frustration of not landing a trick at a spot, or you had an injury, like your board hitting a previously cut-up wound on your shins.

However, you may have experienced this and the deliberate end to the lifespan of your skateboard.

I will assume that there was a build-up and a desire to release the accumulated emotion and stress caused by some of these factors.

Your foot goes through your skateboard; it eventually cracks and snaps.

Your foot has gone through the middle of the board, and it has divided into two, with the middle of the board touching the ground.

Session over today - this skateboard is not coming back.

Skateboarders: some days at the skate park are better than others | Photo: Shutterstock

Losing People to Suicide

I know what it's like to lose people I've cared about through suicide. I know it impacts friends and family pretty heavily.

There are a lot of questions around "why" and a lot of anger and sadness directed toward the suicide victim.

Understandably, there are going to be these emotions.

The person has taken their life, most likely left without saying goodbye, and isn't returning (physically).

The same thing happens when a skateboard is focused.

If you're out on a session and someone has focussed on their board, it impacts everyone's mood and energy.

There are times when a focussed skateboard kills the vibe of the session for everyone.

Unless they carry a spare board, they're not going home with their skateboard today.

They'd probably be walking to the next spot, driving home, or sitting around for the remainder of the day.

When someone has been experiencing prolonged stress caused by various conditions in their life, it impacts their physical, mental, and emotional health.

It is going to accumulate without a way to process or release this.

Sometimes, there may be some early warning signs for individuals who have been going through the intensity of this kind of stress, and other times it will feel like it has come out of nowhere.

The warning signs for someone being frustrated with their skateboard are very easy to identify.

Perhaps there are more board throwing, negative self-talk, displays of anger and frustration, and then there is the final straw that makes the foot go through the board.

Thinking outside of skateboarding, what are some ways you can identify when you or others are not operating at an optimal, emotional best?

Pay attention to your own and others' behaviors and actions and notice changes in their personality, attitude, and overall demeanor.

How does one navigate this if there is no real way of telling what a friend or family member thinks and feels?

Or if they haven't opened up to talking to you about these kinds of things?

If you have been experiencing this level of overwhelming yourself, what are some of your own warning signs and outlets?

You might need to pay more attention to these to be emotionally available to help yourself and others when these changes occur.

Skateboarding, through its health benefits and release of feel-good brain chemicals, can be a great physical outlet for releasing stress.

Emotions that require processing require deeper connections to one's self and others.

Through the potentially diverse and enriching connections made through skateboarding, people can start to have more conversations, check in with, and reach out to one another.

Whether someone has been contemplating suicide or focussing on their skateboard, it's sad to say that the final choice is up to the individual involved.

Though we can be instrumental in supporting them through processing and releasing their stressful and overwhelming situations, ultimately, the end result does not sit with us.

Skateboarding: board throwing, negative self-talk, and displays of anger are ways of expressing frustration and even sadness and depression | Photo: Shutterstock

Taking the Blame

I know that if someone follows through with either of the two acts, it's common for a close friend or family trying to work with the suicide victim to take the blame and feel very responsible for what has happened, despite their best efforts to steer them in the other direction.

Typically, there are questions raised, and comments made - "I could have done something," "it's all my fault, I'm the reason they're gone," and "I wish I had reached out to them earlier."

Despite the circumstances, I do know that any effort is better than no effort.

Though someone following through may not express it, your efforts are greatly appreciated by the victim and their family and friends.

The convincing and counseling efforts are a reminder that someone does care for them.

There is a lot of judgment around suicide, just as there is with someone focussing on their skateboard to end the session in frustration.

The biggest emotion I have observed following both acts is regret.

There are two paths that exist for a skater that has focussed their skateboard.

They can be stuck in the past and angry and frustrated at themselves for not landing their trick or for having a bad day on their skateboard - moping around, dragging the vibe of the session down, and being annoyed for the day.

Or there is the reflective path that looks forwards, and they reflect on the possibilities that could have been if their board wasn't deliberately broken, like "what if I took a break and gave this trick a few more tries?", "what if I calmed myself down, reflected on the experience of trying, and tried a different approach next time?"

A skateboard can be easily replaced by going to the local skate shop and choosing a new board from the shelf, and it doesn't take much to be back in action again.

Between the regrets of their choices, the words said and not said, the things done and not done, suicide victims are looking for a way out and somewhere to leave the situation they are in.

Suicide is typically deemed as the less forgiving, less desirable path because of the loss of life, its impact on family and friends, and the religious-influenced perspective towards it of someone going to hell or living out their days in a punishing environment.

Skateboarding: when we're down and we can't get up, we sometimes dive into a sea of loneliness | Photo: Shutterstock

A Life Filled with Love and Joy

From what I have seen in suicide victims, when they've appeared to me, they're usually filled with sadness, grief, and regret.

Only once they've left have they realized what and who they leave behind and have an impact on.

At times, they don't know that they've died.

They can't believe they actually followed through with the act and are caught between the world of the living and the next.

Sometimes, they are living out a looped experience of their pain and hurts. This is the hell that they put themselves through.

They're not going to burn for eternity, however, as there is the opportunity for redemption once they become aware of their passing, go to the light and cross over to the other side.

All suicide victims go through a similar process to any other death experience.

Once they cross over, they can reflect on their life experience, observe the world from their new perspective, watch over their loved ones and choose another experience on earth later, if they desire.

Deliberately ending the life of a human or a skateboard is never the desired option, but it does happen.

Show your family and friends how much they mean to you. Let them know how much you appreciate them.

Do things that fill up their emotional reserves and let them know how much they mean to you.

Appreciate your life and progress in skateboarding, and know how far you've actually come to get to where you are today.

Suicide or focusing on a skateboard is never something to encourage another person to do because when we find a passion and love for life, we want to make sure that we share the experience with others.

When we are having a good time in life or out skating with friends and family, we want to share that experience of the energy that builds up and culminates in that environment.

While a human body isn't as easily or quickly renewed as a skateboard from the skate shop, it's safe to say that in skateboarding and life, each individual creates their own version of heaven or hell while they are living on earth and with conscious awareness of the power and influence that they have with their life, what they choose to do with their life after this one is also their choice.

Everyone is capable of living a life filled with love and joy. It's a matter of the situations and environments that they surround themselves in.

Be part of the reason that someone wants to be alive and can be themselves.

Be the love that binds life between life, on and off the board.

Words by Nathan Ho | Skateboarder and Author of "The Endless Wave: Skateboarding, Death & Spirituality"

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