Having stood on both sides of the handrail, and with the benefit of time to reflect on what occurred to me both professionally and personally, here are a few more thoughts on what I learned about that taboo subject - suicide;
- Suicide is more prevalent than official records would indicate. A road crash, a fall from the roof, or some other freak accident may also have been from suicide. Suicide touches many people. Speak with anyone and they will know of someone who has attempted to, or sadly been successful at killing themselves.
- No-one is immune to at least having suicidal ideations, thoughts of suicide, or from taking their own life. Given the right environment, any one of us can be touched by this destructive invisible thought. Suicide is uncaring and knows no boundaries - it does not stop to consider; race, religion, gender, culture, financial status, geographical location, nor familial environment.
- Suicidal people may not be sad, down, depressed or suffering from depression. They could be the life of the party, the most jovial person that you have ever met, the happiest person ever. That's what they portray on the outside, on the inside they are frightened and feeling desperately alone.
- Those struggling with thoughts of suicide often don't know what to do; they fear their thoughts but don't want to burden others by speaking out about them. They don't want others to see them as being vulnerable or of being a failure. They will try to tough it out and see if they can work through their emotional pain.
- Most don't know what is happening to them as they have never felt this way before therefore have no benchmark to guide them on what to do or how to stop this darkness from covering them. They get comfortable in the uncomfortable, their irrational thoughts become rational, they work hard to break free from their destructive thoughts until it all becomes all too much.
- They make more than one attempt at killing themselves. They are not being petulant, they are not selfish, they are not losers. They are crying out for help but don't know how to do it in a rational way. They simply want the pain to end but also want to hold on to life.
- Those who go on to complete suicide do so because their thoughts tell them to. Their thoughts are real, not like yours or mine, their thoughts are vivid and overwhelming. They are telling themselves that they are a burden on others, that they should not carry on because they are hurting the ones that they love be being around.
- Most who have survived suicide will tell you that they are glad to have survived, and they are. A lot of survivors will go on to help others, to give back, to make amends, to tell their story, to be thankful for a new chance at life.
- Will they go back to that dark place? No. They may have a low mood from time-to-time, they may need to take better care of themselves, they may want to talk more about how they feel. Mostly, they know in themselves when it is time to back off, to slow down, to get away, to rest, to leave the world behind for a week or two. When they do so, leave them, they are okay. They simply want to recharge their batteries and get their thoughts and feelings back in order.
We can talk as much as we like about suicide to try to help those who may be suicidal, and talking about it can be a good thing. The problem is that the person who we want to know about this 'stuff' when times get tough for them won't remember what we have said. They aren't rational, their logical though processes have disintegrated, past words are meaningless as they become completely overwhelmed by the darkness.
Tomorrow I will talk about how to identify if someone is suicidal and what to do and say to help them. Most importantly, I want to help you, the one who may be left behind with feelings of guilt for not doing enough or not seeing it happening.
Hindsight is not a wonderful thing; it is a terrible burden.