In lieu of National Suicide Prevention Week, I wanted to take a second to forgo the usual levity and wit found throughout our articles to focus on the importance of mental health and personal self-worth.
It’s no secret that suicide is one of the most painful acts that surviving families, friends, and loved ones have to live through; to witness a beloved individual taking their own life. And from my own experience in losing a good friend two years ago to suicide, I can say assuredly that those left behind will always find ways to blame themselves.
“I didn’t recognize the signs quick enough.”
“I should have known that something was up.”
“Why didn’t I pay more attention to them?”
“Why did I say I was always too busy to talk or hang out?”
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Ad nauseam.
This isn’t to discount the feelings of those who have lived through this terrible ordeal. Nor is it a way to try and take the focus solely away from the survivors of suicide. I am a HUGE proponent of families and friends expressing themselves in a healthy environment, seeking help and therapy to cope with the loss of a loved one in this manner. I believe that holding it in and denying ourselves the chance to speak about our pain, that we cast away the chance for healing and the possibility to realize what is one of my main points in this piece:
This isn’t about us.
That term can be taken in one of two ways, at least. The first being that I am somehow discounting the survivor’s experience, and saying that their feelings are negligible (which of course I am not; not in the slightest). The second, and most accurate way of taking this statement is in light of my intention: that the thought of and the carrying through of suicide is not about other people. It isn’t about a mother or a father or a friend or a sister or a brother or a child or an employer. It isn’t about the state of the world, nor is it about who won the election, anymore than it’s about the dwindling population of Monarch butterflies or seeing a favourite actor get snubbed at whatever those award shows are called. The thought and follow through of suicide isn’t about any of those people and it isn’t about any of those things.
Suicide is about the mental health, or lack thereof, in the sufferer.
And if we, as the friends and families—as the survivors—of these sufferers can realize that, I believe we can more accurately and more appropriately help those individuals. Individuals with suicidal inclinations and thoughts are trapped in their heads, trapped in their thoughts and minds; in a place that is hostile to them, that is dangerous and nightmarish to them, that is a living hell and a place of constant torment that they often cannot find any reprieve from. Sometimes, there is solace to be found in spending time with loved ones, in pouring oneself into their work or aspirations, in helping those around them whom they see are suffering just as much as they are. But this external investment can only last so long, and at the end of the day, all any of us come back to is ourselves.
It isn’t always easy to recognize the signs, the symptoms of those suffering from Major Depressive Disorder, nor is it simple to discern if those around us are struggling with suicidal thoughts. In the sufferer, to admit anything or to seek help is often seen as whining or attention seeking, and the last thing a depressed individual wants is further critique, affirmed disbelief, or a realized ambivalence from those they ask for help.
So rather than give you a list of “10 Things You Can Do to Keep Your Loved Ones From Committing Suicide”, I’m just going to leave you with two pieces of advice. I’m not smart enough to think of all the things you should be ready to say to someone seeking help, but as someone who routinely struggles with suicidal thoughts, I will say this:
Remember that the sufferer’s issues and pain are not about you. Remove yourself from the equation so that the true problem can be sought. And once that has happened, please, please, please listen. You don’t have to have any answers, you don’t have to be an expert in anything other than sincerely listening to the person who is confiding in you. Don’t try to fix them, or to give them any advice other than directing them (lovingly and patiently) to a mental health expert. Offer to be their wingman, if it would encourage or help them in seeking the aid they need. Be loving, be patient, and practice selflessness. That’s all I can offer.
This week is one of contemplation, certainly, but I also believe that it’s a rallying cry to charge into the lives of our families and friends as soft hearted, soft spoken warriors with ears ready to listen and arms ready to hold and comfort.
I pray that this week is encouraging for all of you.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, check out https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ for information that may help.