If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.
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It was early June and Ghassan had just wrapped up The Pigeoneer, a screenplay about a man in Jordan who split his day racing pigeons and being a disenfranchised husband. It was to be his second big project on the silver screen -- his first, The Key, received a Doha Film Institute grant and is currently in production. I'd promised Ghassan I would see him after he finished the work.
"Joey, now that it's finished, will you come to see me in Amman?," he asked. "Promise!," I assured him. I would never make the trip.
Ghassan Jaradat hung himself in his Amman apartment on June 24. He was 28.
It goes without saying that losing a friend of 10 years has a devastating effect, but it becomes magnified tenfold when you discover you are the very last person they reached out to. Ghassan messaged me several times in the days before he took his life. "Are you there?" "Can you talk?" I wasn't and I couldn't at the time. When I saw his notes, I replied immediately. But it was his sister who responded.
"He was too good for this world. He couldn't bare the injustice, the inequality, the unfairness." She also shared with me that Ghassan suffered from severe depression.
The word "unfairness" still rings in my head, like a twisted pun.
Ghassan was Palestinian and vehemently opposed injustice, bigotry, and any type of anti-immigrant sentiment. I'm Mexican-American and until recently I was a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, better known as FAIR. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, FAIR promotes injustice, bigotry, and anti-immigrant policies.
Exactly one month after his death, I filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights against FAIR over discrimination. It's scary to make a move like this against a well-funded group with millions in the bank, but I know Ghassan would approve.
Since his suicide I've felt like a part of me has died too. I routinely look for scraps of him through pictures, notes, or road diaries that I can cling onto. It's excruciatingly painful to reach for the phone to call someone who has always been there for you, only to realize they're gone forever. And when you know you're the last person they reached out to, it makes you want to scream. It's just so unfair.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, "one of the risks for suicide is social isolation, and there's scientific evidence for reducing suicide risk by making sure we connect with one another."
For National Suicide Prevention Week, it seemed befitting to share passages from a letter penned by Ghassan years ago.
From: Ghassan Jaradat
To: the "socially isolated" and those "no longer able to bare the injustice, the inequality, the unfairness."
When I see you from the moon, I see a man attached to a battle.
The higher you go, the harder the problems are.
That's why there are only a few great men in history.
Because they have the ability of growth.
The ability to take challenges.
And I see it in you.
So, go run.
Go fucking scream!
Don't be imprisoned by the idea of losing.
Because you are not a loser.
And you know it.
JOE GOMEZ is a Washington, D.C.-based immigration activist.