The most often asked question when a person dies as a result of suicide is why? Why would someone do this? Initially, the sense is that of disbelief. Depending on the relationship with the person, there is often a lot of confusion, anger, hurt, and racing thoughts, all balled up together like an explosion of feelings. It is like being in a high-speed race and not moving. People often start to gasp at ideas that may or may not make sense. Life was too much for them, or something must have pushed them to do this. We all will look for answers because we are human and want to know why.
This month of September is dedicated to suicide awareness and prevention. But make no mistake, this is not a one-month issue. People of all ages die as a result of suicide at all hours of the day and every day of the year. But we need to start somewhere, and September is as good as any other time in the year.
On any ordinary day, someone will think about dying. They may even think about how this would happen. They may put things in place to make sure it happens. Oddly enough, it is highly unusual that they will not say something about it. They may be acting differently than they usually do. They may even tell others they wish they were dead and the world would be better without them.
People often sound out their feelings either directly or indirectly. Through words or actions, feelings often come out. This is why it is so important to feel comfortable asking the questions people may have when they are seeing or hearing these feelings. Are you ok? Do you feel safe? Do you think about suicide? Most people avoid these questions for fear that they will cause what they are asking about. This is not true. In fact, most people dealing with these feelings are scared, ambivalent, and feeling alone. Having someone show concern is most often thought of as a comforting expression. It also encourages the needed dialogue of helping to save someone’s life.
We cannot help those who die as a result of suicide. We can help those who are contemplating it. We can help them to see that pain is a terrible part of life, but it does not last forever. That being alone is situational and can be changed. That there is always hope if we look in the right places. The more we talk out loud, the more reasons we will find for living. Why? Because we are all human, and we thrive on the concern and care of others. Our exchange of simple talk makes us stronger and builds hope.
Yes, we start with September, but this is a daily conversation for everyone suffering from these feelings. The more we all begin to talk about mental illness, the easier it will be for everyone to speak of its pain and fear. We can all do this, so let’s start today.
Rik Cornell, LICSW
VP of Community Relations