This week has been National Suicide Prevention Week. If you or anyone that you know has been experiencing suicidal thoughts or hopelessness or suffering in any way, please reach out for help.
Samaritans Hours: Available 24 hours. Call 116 123
For Suicide Prevention Week, I wanted to talk about how we as a society tend to view suicide and discuss a better mindset for us to adopt…
Thinking that suicide is selfish is actually selfish, in my opinion. That’s once again thinking about yourself, the person left behind, and not the victim.
And yes, victim is the key word here. People who die by suicide are the victims of depression and severe mental illness.
People in their right mind don’t end their lives.
Yes, many of us may have had hard and low periods in our lives. Times when we wished we weren’t here having to deal with how we are feeling or our circumstances. Perhaps even had deep depression and suffered from suicidal thoughts, too. But that doesn’t mean you get to judge those who have gone through with attempted suicide or death by suicide.
We have a tendency to judge how one another handles pain, but the thing is, everyone’s situations and personalities and lives and brains and everything is different. Our threshold for physical and mental/emotional pain is different. We cannot ever hope to compare our pain. And we shouldn’t.
“It’s too horrible to talk about”
In other words, suicide is a taboo subject. A subject that should only be whispered about if spoken of at all. Something shameful and awful and disgusting.
Tell me, is death by cancer shameful? Death by mental illness shouldn’t be, either. It is, as I said before, the result of severe mental illness and a mind sent to the edge.
The thing is, suicide is awful. But not because that person killed themselves and they should be ashamed. It’s awful to me because it’s preventable. It feels like if only that person got the appropriate help then maybe they would be here today.
Keeping secrets and turning away from tough topics of conversation is what makes suicide so prevalent (high in number). People who are suffering are too scared to reach out because they feel hopeless, helpless and ashamed on top of all that.
We need to talk about suicide, to help stop suicide.
“It’s for crazy people”
Only mad people commit suicide. Crazy people. Mental people.
This kind of unfair and disgusting language is again a reason why mentally ill people feel driven to suicide and refuse help. They feel isolated, judged, and shunned and too “crazy” for anyone to deal with.
You are not mental health professionals (I assume) and it is not your responsibility to save or heal mentally ill people. But you are a part of our society and therefore you have a responsibility, a duty even, to do something simple but powerful: be kind instead of cruel. Don’t add to their pain.
Mental illness (or mentally ill) is not synonymous with crazy, mad, or even unstable. Not all mentally ill people are unstable.
“It’s for weak people”
Oh if they’re not crazy, then they are weak at the very least, right? Wrong.
Again, thinking of suicidal thoughts, suicide, or mental illness as weakness is a way of shunning and judging and hating.
We cannot even begin assume to understand someone’s situation. Who are you to pretend to know how they feel everyday?
One of the Four Agreements is Don’t Make Assumptions. Even if you knew the person, there’s a lot you still might not know about their everyday life and suffering.
We all have moments of weakness. The world isn’t split into strong people and weak people. Those who can handle the hard stuff and those who can’t.
We all have things that change or even break us. We all have low moments. How we handle them may manifest in different ways, but again, you don’t get to be the judge and jury on that. You don’t get to sit on your high horse and say, “getting angry and drinking away my pain is better than those people who contemplate or attempt suicide.”
Again, do not compare pain.
- Have open conversations about suicide, suicidal thoughts, hardships, mental illness and mental health in general. (Mental health is something that we all should care about, because it just means the health of the mind; just like the body, the mind can be healthy and unhealthy.)
- When we hear that someone died by suicide (who we didn’t know personally), let’s be sad, sorry, and empathetic. Not judgemental or assume anything about them.
- Let’s treat suicide as any other death. Not something we hide and make the family feel bad about; or make them feel alone in it, just like their loved one did. Show compassion for the deceased’s family and friends.
- I’m not so sure I like the term “committed suicide”. I know it’s against the law but it makes it sound so dirty and therefore makes it harder to discuss and understand. (I’m not saying suicide is okay. Please don’t twist my words. This post is about preventing it by opening our hearts to understanding what would push someone to something so permanent and devastating.) Instead perhaps get used to saying “Death by suicide” or “Death by depression”.
- Just like with racism and homophobia etc., we need to talk about mental health, mental illness, and suicide in order to move forward towards change and the betterment of our society. So that those people feeling this way can reach out with less fear. So that people feel heard and understood. So people have a platform for bringing about change within themselves and the wider world.
Hard conversations are often the most important to have.
A few last things to consider on a more personal level in your everyday life:
- Consider how you treat other people in general. Cruelty, bullying, and judgement can be a breeding ground for mental health decline.
- How do you react when someone tells you they are struggling? Could you have more empathy? Could you allow them the room to just talk freely without you interrupting, assuming, judging, or trying to fix it?
- Are you telling people to just be happy, get over it, it’s fine, don’t be silly, you’ll be okay without any feeling, help, or listening at all?
- Are you using problematic and damaging language like crazy, weak, pussy, loser, idiot, mad, insane etc.?
People often just need to talk openly and feel heard. They don’t need you to fix their problems or their thinking. You could, if appropriate, support them with materials that could help or with seeing a professional. But lending an ear goes a long way. Allowing someone the space to say the hard stuff without them feeling like you will judge, get uncomfortable, or push them away.
We can all play a role in helping to prevent suicide by doing two things: listening and being compassionate.