Saturday, September 16, 2017

Four Things You Can Do to #StopSuicide

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

As National Suicide Prevention Week comes to a close, I wanted to share a few words. I was once suicidal. I hated myself. I hated my life. I was blind to the love of people around me. I was virtually on the precipice, but stepped back at the last moment because of their love. They mattered to me, and I mattered to them. I remembered that at the moment it would do the most good. I survived that dark period, and other dark periods that followed. I survived, healed, and now I try to help other people as desperately miserable as I once was by opening up about depression, ADHD, and suicide with my writing.

In fact, I wrote a book to #StopSuicide, but helping people doesn’t need to be that elaborate. Just listen and care when somebody is in crisis. Take the time to care. Don’t recoil from the subject. The fact somebody is opening up to you about such a difficult subject is an amazing blessing in your life. Don’t waste it.

The other night I spoke with a gentleman whose boy committed suicide years ago. His pain survives that suicide years later. He felt his boy didn’t mean to do it. That it was an accident. People care. They agonize over these deaths. If you are convinced nobody cares, that’s the suicidal intentions lying to you. This father, like most survivors, was wracked with survivor’s guilt. I could see it in his eyes. It’s a look I’ve seen before. “What could I have done differently?!”, they usually ask themselves. Sometimes there is nothing you can do. The ultimate choice is theirs to make, but you can do a few things to give them a fighting chance:

  1. Ask
    You know what people look like when they are sad. You know what people look like when they are devastated. If you see somebody carrying that kind of cloud over their heads, take a moment to inquire how they’re doing. They will probably tell you they’re just fine, because don’t we all? But you’ve opened a door that they didn’t know was open for them before.

  2. Listen
    If they choose to open up to you, their feelings may be intense, and what they describe may be hard to bear, but persevere. You are their lifeline. Don’t pull it back into the boat before they grab on.

  3. Care
    You may find their reasons for feeling suicidal are insignificant and even silly. I’ve heard it all. People without problems react to people drowning in problems with some form of “What? That’s nothing!” But keep this in mind. Suicidal depression magnifies small events into giant meteors of impending death. Their perception is that there is no hope, no way out except death. You may look and see tiny obstacles that would be easy for you to circumvent, but for them, these obstacles are mountains of impossible height. Don’t berate them for not being you. If they saw their life problems as small obstacles, they wouldn’t be confiding in you for help. Do your best to give them support, perspective, and compassion.

  4. Follow Up
    As the adage goes, out of sight, out of mind. You may pat yourself on the back for a job well done, but they may continue walking around with a cloud over their heads. Check in on them to see how they are doing. Your simple pep talk won’t erase a tsunami of suicidal depression anymore than one moment of sun dries your clothes on a rainy day. Don’t pester them, obviously, but keep at it. Ask them here and there how they’re doing. Let them know somebody cares.

From my own experience with suicide, we don’t think clearly during our bleakest moments. We may even believe that what we are planning is perfectly logical—even a kindness to the people we leave behind. Keep reaching out. Keep loving. It matters.

It’s not our responsibility to make their choices for them. It’s not our fault if they reject us and make that final, horrible choice. But if there is even one chance that a caring ear bent towards their needs could have helped them stop, wouldn’t you want to be the person who saved somebody from their darkest impulses?


Thank you for your support this week. I hope you found my book on fighting suicide helpful, or gifted it to somebody else who might.