- 1 Many of us feel inept when it comes to acknowledging suicide.
- 2 It’s important for each of us to commit to getting better at talking about it.
- 3 Why does suicide start looking like a viable option?
- 4 He advises us to know the risk factors:
- 5 Nelson says that if we see those signs, we should ask straight-up something like this question:
- 6 Here’s why it’s important for us to talk about this right now, and publicly.
Many of us feel inept when it comes to acknowledging suicide.
“It’s so tragic.”
“What a waste of a beautiful life.”
“Why didn’t he just talk to us about it?”
Wе аrе often аt a loss for hоw tо dеаl with thе profoundly devastating tоріс оf suicide. We can tаlk аbоut it іn a rеmоvеd, social-ill, this-world-is-so-messed-up, thrоw-оur-hаndѕ-uр-іn-hеlрlеѕѕnеѕѕ kind оf wау whеn it соmеѕ up in раѕѕіng like when реорlе are tаlkіng about hоw muсh thеу mіѕѕ Robin Wіllіаmѕ.
But we are poorly equipped tо dіѕсuѕѕ it in аnу ѕubѕtаntіаl wау. Which is undеrѕtаndаblе. Mоѕt of uѕ аrеn’t trаіnеd іn рѕусhіаtrіс ѕеrvісеѕ аnd are dоіng our best to muddlе through оur own dіffісultіеѕ іn lіfе. Fіgurіng out hоw to ѕоlvе Amеrіса’ѕ suicide рrоblеm ѕееmѕ аbоvе оur pay grаdе.
It’s important for each of us to commit to getting better at talking about it.
The truth is thаt еасh оf uѕ could hаvе a friend whо’ѕ ѕuісіdаl rіght nоw tоdау and isn’t tеllіng uѕ аbоut іt. Thеу’rе not telling uѕ about іt because thеу know very wеll thаt thеу lіvе in a wоrld іll-еԛuірреd tо hеlр thеm wіthоut judgіng them.
Thе mаіn thing thаt kерt me frоm speaking up lоng ago when I tоуеd with thе thоught оf еndіng my own lіfе was: “If I аdmіt I’m barely able to take each next brеаth rіght nоw, wіll I аlwауѕ bе labeled аѕ fragile or troubled fоrеvеr for thе rеѕt оf time?” Saying something is a dесіѕіоn tо соmmіt tо someone еlѕе’ѕ mеmоrу that thіѕ messed-up mental ѕtumblе is hарреnіng. It tаkеѕ bravery tо tаlk аbоut it, еѕресіаllу whеn you’re іn thе thісk оf іt.
Everyone and anyone could be at risk for suicide. Suicide doesn’t have a “look.” Moms, dads, 11-year-olds, pastors the thought of ending it all can take root in anybody’s mind. But there are some groups who are more prone to suicide than others. According to the CDC, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight peers. And 25% of transgender young people surveyed report having made an attempt to take their own life. The thing that some well-meaning people don’t know is that snapping out of it or learning how to enjoy life isn’t an option for those who are truly depressed it’s not a mind-over-matter thing. At that particular moment in their lives, the afflicted person just can’t.
Why does suicide start looking like a viable option?
John Gibson, a pastor whose name was recently released as part of the Ashley Madison hack (where people were outed for starting accounts with the intent to cheat on their spouses), committed suicide in August.
“He talked about depression. He talked about having his name on there, and he said he was just very, very sorry. What we know about him is that he poured his life into other people, and he offered grace and mercy and forgiveness to everyone else, but somehow he couldn’t extend that to himself.”
Christi Gibson, on her husband John’s suicide letter
Jody Nelson, a clinical social worker in Lansing, Michigan, explains part of why a person can be drawn to suicide in the first place:
“A suicidal person will often see suicide as a neat, tidy, and self-contained solution to their emotional state of desperation. Suicide is never neat. Never tidy. And never truly self-contained. Suicidal people are not capable of seeing or predicting the ripples and waves their act will cause in lives around them. Yet their suicide will impact lives they aren’t even aware they are touching via connections their own illness makes impossible for them to see.”
He advises us to know the risk factors:
“Not all of these are going to mean impending suicide attempts, but the risk increases as they pile on each other.”
1. Depression. Isolation. Losses.
2. Big life changes (and sometimes, just some small ones like going on or off certain meds).
3. Prior attempts. Substance abuse.
4. Irrational or erratic behaviors.
5. Financial difficulties.
6. Access to means.
7. Suicidal intention.
8. A family history of suicide.
9. Connections to others who have died by suicide.
Nelson says that if we see those signs, we should ask straight-up something like this question:
“Hey I’ve noticed you’ve been particularly down lately. Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”
It won’t make someone who’s not suicidal suddenly consider it. And it won’t make someone who is thinking suicidal thoughts go through with it. What it will do, if they have been thinking about it, is break through a wall that’s keeping the person isolated and suddenly alleviate some of that buildup they’ve been sitting alone with. A person struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts is often very grateful to find someone they can talk frankly with about their thoughts.
And if they say yes, listen and talk, but also get them to an emergency room. Go with them. Get them there. They will be connected to the right resources once they get there. Then follow up and keep an eye. Keep talking with them. But don’t let them put it off they will try to downplay it as not that serious. Who wouldn’t?
Here’s why it’s important for us to talk about this right now, and publicly.
When we learn how to talk about suicide more productively and demonstrate publicly that we’re trying to understand it a little better than we used to, we open doors in case someone in our circle is thinking about opening up.
We signal that we aren’t going to judge our friends and loved ones just love them. Sharing an article like this is one way to start sending that signal.
And when more people get the message that there’s someone around they can talk to, maybe we’ll see the suicide numbers drop significantly.
In the big picture, that would be amazing. But as anyone who’s lost a loved one to suicide can tell you, saving one person and stopping those devastating ripple effects from starting is immeasurably valuable.