You may have heard that the renowned animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin passed away yesterday. I never met Dr. Yin. I never had the opportunity to attend one of her seminars. But I read her work and occasionally provided her handouts to my both my dog training and my social work clients. To say that she made a real difference in the field is an understatement. To say she will be sorely missed, well, that's been said many times, and by people far more eloquent than I.
Instead, I want to address the elephant in the room: her death was the result of suicide.
At first blush, this is shocking. Dr. Yin was incredibly successful and influential. Her public persona was upbeat and positive. So how could she take her own life?
I doubt we will ever know the details of what led her to that decision. I'm not sure that we need to. But what we do need to do is be kind.
I call myself a positive dog trainer, and I think most of my readers do, too. At its most basic, positive dog training is about being kind to our dogs. This is admirable; I believe that all living beings deserve kindness, compassion, and respect. And the key words there? All living beings.
Be kind to others. Everyone in this world is struggling with something. We all have our challenges. We all have bad days. Thankfully, many of us will never have suicidally bad days... but then again, maybe many of us do. How can we know if we never talk about it?
The truth is, there is so much stigma in this world around mental health. We are afraid to share our struggles with depression or anxiety or many others because somehow we've bought into the lie that these conditions make us "less than." I'm not saying that we need to share our struggles with the world. And I'm not saying that we shouldn't. What I am saying is that we all need someone we can reach out to in times of need, whether it's family, friends, a professional, or even a helpline.
Because when it comes right down to it, we are all worthy of love and belonging. Our dogs are. Our friends are. The people we don't like are. You are. I am. We are all worthy of love and belonging.
So... be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Be kind.