Thanks for taking a moment to read through this rather somber post. A lot of people are impacted by suicide. Many of us know people who have either attempted or completed suicide. If you are like me, you are one of those people. A lot of the problem we face in this world is that people have a hard time recognizing mental illness. They don’t know the signs that someone is hurting or maybe even feel helpless and don’t know what to do if they suspect someone is suicidal.
Unfortunately, ignoring any potential problems is the worst thing a person could do. Many people brush off signs and rationalize away any problems they see because they don’t want to offend the at risk person. Sometimes people fear that talking about it will put the idea in a person’s head. This is beyond WRONG! If you think someone is at risk, TALK TO THEM. You are not putting ideas in their head. Chances are, they’ve been there for quite some time.
So, what do I need to know?
It all starts with thoughts. Every now and again a person may begin to think that the world would be better off without them. When those thoughts start to pile on, a person who is suffering may begin to think this most of the days of the week. During this time, thoughts can change from a general idea to more specific ideas. A person may begin to think of all the reasons why they think the world would be better off or how their pain is becoming unbearable. At some point the thoughts turn not only into a need to escape the pain, but a means to escape it. When the thoughts turn into a plan, things are pretty serious. This is the point where people could be hospitalized to prevent them from harming themselves. Once a person gets a plan, they begin to find a means to go through with the plan. Once they have the means, there is little to prevent them from completing suicide unless someone steps in and helps them. This is why it is so important to talk to people about it. The vast majority of the time, people who are hurting want help. They want a way out that doesn’t include dying, but have a hard time seeing how things could get better.
If you fear someone is in immediate danger of harming themselves, please DO NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE! Be sure to call emergency responders if a person is about to harm herself/himself or someone else. You may not be able to get the person to the hospital on your own, they are trained for these situations. While you are staying with the person, please for the love of all that is holy LISTEN TO THEM! As they saying goes, you have two ears and one mouth, that should tell you something. You can still talk to them, but active listening is so crucial. I can’t speak for others, but for me, after feeling like I was alone in my pain, it meant the world to me that someone was willing to listen to my struggles. Focusing on listening will also help you avoid saying anything that might make you worthy of being slapped. You know these phrases: you just have to get over it, just push through, I know exactly how you are feeling because my balloon floated away once and I was so depressed, it’s not a big deal because everyone goes through tough times, God never gives you more than you can handle… I could write an entire post just focused on well meaning, but poorly delivered advice. Overall, if you are talking with someone who is hurting, it’s okay to share a hurt you have that may help the person relate to you better, but remember that it is not a contest. You are not trying to one up your friend, especially if that friend is or even could be suicidal! Ask yourself, would this make it seem like I am writing off my friend’s life story? Obviously, if the answer is yes, do NOT say that thing. It’s really not as hard as it sounds. It also helps to be prepared for silences. They are okay. I’m not sure if you have ever been ignored your whole life and suddenly had someone interested in the most raw and vulnerable parts of your heart, but if so, you know that talking is difficult and words come out in drops, not a rushing stream. Long silences and a sobbing are a real possibility. So is the possibility that the person may just shut down. Be selfless and follow the golden rule. Always show compassion. This isn’t a 90s sitcom, you won’t solve someone’s problems in a half hour, however, you may find yourself in a critical position to steer someone toward needed help. Don’t miss it.
Mental illness is difficult to deal with and with so many people making a joke out of it and even using words like depressed and OCD out of context, we don’t have tough conversations about these things until tragedy happens. If someone you know is starting to show signs that they are hurting, if you see someone withdrawing from friends or A students suddenly barely making Cs, if you even suspect someone may be considering suicide, please reach out to them. It’s much better to have an awkward conversation that could reveal nothing serious was wrong, than to wake up one day and realize someone you know has hurt so badly that they believed death was the only thing that could help them. One person isn’t enough to make someone take their life, but it could be enough to save one. The hard truth is, saying something may not be enough to stop the attempt, but it is enough for someone to know they aren’t completely alone. A friendly smile or a well meaning greeting can make world of difference, so can asking a friend if they are suicidal. It won’t be an easy conversation, but it’s an important one, so let’s talk about suicide.
Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Or if you are like me and don’t have the privacy to talk on the phone without worrying about being overheard:
*Disclaimer: I’m not a licensed therapist or any kind of doctor. I don’t even play one one t.v.. I’m just sharing what I have learned from my suicide attempt, the events leading up to it, and the results that came after.