Let's stop talking about suicide and start talking about suicide prevention

Suicide is receiving an overdose of publicity.  The aftermath of a suicide and its tragic loss is naturally newsworthy and the statistics are heartbreaking.  I’m pleased the statistical information is published because we so desperately need the awareness of the numbers & stats to keep driving us to look for ways to change what we’re currently doing.  

It’s time for us to acknowledge that the things we say to, and the way we treat people with mental illness is not working.  It’s time for us to change things up.  How is it that so many people are able to fall through the cracks of friends, family and people who care for them; ending up dead by their own choice?  Why don’t we know how to help?  With the constant increase of suicides we are clearly missing something.

Suicide leaves an enormous amount of questions that will never be answered and my heart goes out to the 135 people deeply affected by each and every suicide.  This post is not intended to highlight the things they could have done differently and is in no way directed at them or their loved ones.  

I’m going out on a limb, but I’ll say a few things.  And I truly hope what I have to say resonates with enough people to get them thinking about how they may be able to change their automatic responses which may ultimately prevent a suicide.    

From my own experiences, I have come to understand that people who are suicidal find it incredibly difficult, if not impossible to directly ask for help.  The very shame of not being able to cope with living keeps suicide secretly tucked away inside.  

And mental illnesses will tell their victims some terrible lies, ones that sound like:

  • You are a burden

  • You are worthless

  • You should feel guilty for being suicidal

  • If you open up enough to let another person know how terrible you are feeling that person probably won’t want anything more to do with you

Being able to share how bad they are is a lifeline for a potentially suicidal person.  To be able to share, they need to know their listener will be fully prepared to put themselves in their shoes and to be able to listen to them without judgement or conditions.  To simply be there for them and to love them no matter what.  No labels.  No fix up solutions.  Just empathy, compassion and love.

Potentially suicidal people do leave clues  

They may ‘joke’ about wanting to kill themselves  

They may give away special possessions

They may have no apparent plans for the future, only talking about what they’re going to do tomorrow and not refer to next week/month/year 

They may say they are worthless 

They might say things are hopeless

A seemingly simple task might be too overwhelming for them

They have less natural ‘pick me ups’, those little activities that spark joy

They say everything is ok and things will be fine

If you are worried about someone

Be the one to start a conversation with them.  Especially if you are worried.  Don’t wait for them to come to you.  Chances are they won’t.  Walk a mile in their shoes, have empathy for their feelings and their scenario.  Being dismissive of another person’s concerns is not ok.  Nor is feeling sorry for someone and not doing anything to reach out to them.  

Look, listen and do.  Your actions speak louder than your words.  Be the person who notices and comes to help without being asked.  You never know what another person is going through, so be kind.  Always be kind.

Don’t agree to keep their secret.  If you are trusted enough to hear what they are going through and you know it’s bad then you have a responsibility to do something.  The burden on you will be huge but know that your voice is their lifeline.

It takes courage to look at yourself and acknowledge that you want do better.  We desperately need to change our approach towards others who are suffering with mental illness.  Be the person who takes a stand and reaches out to others without being asked.  Be the one who gives help without being asked or expecting anything in return, take a moment to do something for another.

If you need a run down of the questions to ask, go and read my post ‘What do you say?‘ And, as ever, reach out to me if you need coaching or support.  Taking a series of small steps to change is the most effective way I know of moving through a challenge.