I’m always torn between sharing about suicide awareness and just offering a listening ear to survivors of suicide.
On the one hand, I don’t want a single person who may be shouting warning signals to end up completing suicide because no one listened.
On the other, I want to protect bereaved parents and siblings from any additional guilt they may feel because they “missed” such signals.
But since suicide is at epidemic proportions in our country-especially among young people and veterans-I’m going to try to navigate the middle ground.
To anyone whose loved one left this life by suicide let me say this: You are not responsible! Even if in hindsight you feel like you missed cues or didn’t notice tell-tale signs, in the end it was their own action that led to death.
I do not believe suicide is selfish.
I believe suicide results from pain so unbearable a heart simply thinks there is no other way to end it. It’s not a conscious act as such, it’s a reflexive response to intense pain.
I also know that mental illness-often untreated because it is undiagnosed-wrecks havoc with the logical, reasoning part of a brain.
To those who may be contemplating suicide (something I know many, many bereaved parents think about) let me say this: If you are considering it, reach out.
You are a unique creation and cannot be replaced.
There are resources available and people not only willing, but LONGING, to help you hold onto hope.
As you fall deeper and deeper into the pit of despair, it’s easy to lose sight of the truth that darkness is not all that exists. Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s nearly impossible of your own volition to will yourself out of the funk.
This is where suicide prevention has a role to play.
If someone seems “off”, don’t ignore it, dismiss it or excuse yourself from asking hard questions (even at the risk of being rebuffed or worse).
Often a single person extending a hand and listening ear at just the right moment grants space for a hurting heart to reconsider suicide as the only way out of pain. If they won’t respond in spite of your best efforts, enlist allies.
And walk gently among your fellow humans!
You may never know when your smile, opened door, random encouraging word or knowing glance is the difference between a stranger going home to end it all and going home and making a phone call to get help.
Suicide is tragic.
Be a friend.
Compassion is a choice.
Be the one who cares, calls and comforts.