I’ve lived pretty much all of my life as a survivor of suicide loss, touched by suicide at the age of 8. Not much has changed in the last 24 years in how suicide is viewed and feared, except now people post on social media about how awful it is when another celebrity is lost to suicide, followed by the “lets talk, It’s ok to not be ok” Memes.
But until we end the stigma that surrounds suicide, we’re never going to get very far.
I’m fairly convinced that it’s fear that perpetuates the stigma, imagine for just a second you are sat with a loved one, a friend, a family member, and you ask how they are, and their response is “I’m feeling suicidal” how do you feel in that moment?
Fearful of them doing it?
Scared because you don’t want to live without them?
wondering why they would feel like that?
It’s easy to say in this moment, “why? you have so much to live for” or “Please don’t talk like that” “I’d miss you if you wasn’t here”
But this moment isn’t about you, and you have to remove yourself out of the equation. Of course you’re going to be concerned and fearful they may in fact follow through, but the fact they’ve said those words means they are at least looking for help. The best thing you can say right now is “what’s going on? I’m here and we can get through it, what can I do?”
I keep seeing the facebook posts from well meaning people saying things like “I’d sooner hear of your problems than hear of your death, I’m here if you need to talk” And I often wonder how they would in fact handle it the second suicide was placed on the table in front of them, or are they posting these things just to say they have, or to go with the crowd because everyone else is.
If someone is suicidal they’ve lost hope, they often feel like everyone around them would be better off without them, they bare a lot of pain that feels overwhelming, and feel like a burden. They see this as their way out of causing their families and loved ones the pain and burden of dealing with them. They haven’t considered what would happen in the aftermath, in their minds they’re doing everyone a favour. I’m not saying every person who has been, or will be suicidal will think like this. For others they may not even have thought much about it, right now whatever they are going through is just too much to bare and they want the pain to stop, and on impulse to end the pain they end their lives. Others think it through meticulously right down to leaving a note, to explain why they just couldn’t stay having first got everything into order. Suicide works differently for everyone touched by it.
Until we can openly have a conversation with each other about mental health and wether or not we feel suicidal, we just cannot move forward. We have to remove ourselves and our own feelings when someone is talking about their Mental Health or suicidal thoughts because it isn’t about us personally it’s about them, it’s understanding the place they are in and what can you do to help them right now. Maybe it’s helping them reach out for professional help, staying with them, taking the pressure off by helping with things they are finding overwhelming, and being there when they need to say they’re feeling overwhelmed or suicidal further down the line. In that moment you may need to drop everything to just be there, to go to them take them out for a coffee, or just sit with them, what ever they need.
If we don’t remove our own fear of losing someone we will continue to loose people to suicide, depression has no discrimination. Just because you’ve never felt depressed doesn’t mean you won’t ever get hit by it, the word YET is a big thing with depression, you’ve not been depressed YET! there’s a chance at some point you will, maybe you’ll be lucky and never drop so deep down the hole that you’ll feel the suicidal thoughts creeping in, but there’s always a chance you could. We have to start by being willing to talk to those people the ones touched by depression, the survivors of suicide loss, the survivors of attempted suicide, the ones battling self harm and those dealing with mental health problems. Without judgement and fear, with an open mind of what we can do to actively help others.
Mental health is only scary because we’ve been led to believe these people are crazy by a society that discriminates against anything that goes against the grain. If you’ve lived your life up to this point without mental health problems, depression, being touched by suicide or self harm then I am truly relived for you, and happy that you’ve made it this far without that level of trauma, but please don’t fear those that have, attempt to find understanding and refrain from judgement.
And please please please when someone says a loved one died by suicide please stop asking intrusive questions, “How did they do it?” “why did they do it?” “did you not see any warning signs?” “did they leave a note?” You wouldn’t ask these kinds of questions if they’d said their loved one had died via illness or been killed by a drunk driver, or is a murder victim, so please think before you ask questions, in fact it’s probably better to not ask any questions, the person telling you their story will either share these things or they won’t, just accept it if the questions you want to ask are left unanswered. And please don’t turn your back on someone who has had to deal with the loss of a loved one to suicide, it isn’t contagious and we aren’t bad people, having to cope with the aftermath no matter the length of time is hard enough without having people treat us like we caused it.
If you are feeling suicidal or need to talk about suicide please reach out and speak to someone you trust. If you are in the UK then please phone the following numbers.
CALM’s helpline 0800 58 58 58
SAMARITANS 116 123
Also published on Medium.