WARNING: This blog post may have triggering and/or intense content. Please be aware of any adverse reactions you may be experiencing. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, upset or other intense emotions-thoughts-feelings, please discontinue reading this post immediately and talk to your nearest support system.
Suicide is real, irrevocable and remains a difficult topic for most. In December, you may remember hearing about the Highlands Ranch mother of two who took her own life before taking her children’s. Then again a couple weeks later, the community heard about Colorado’s only Heisman winner, Rashaan Salaam dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Two different people yet one common thread: to leave this world on their own account. As a state, we have seen suicide statistics rise tremendously (see infographic at conclusion of blog). As Coloradans, we also saw ballot issues talking to the point of taking one’s own life by means of physician-assisted suicide. That is not discussed in this post as I am strictly talking to self-induced termination of life due to mental health struggles.
I can count on both hands, since 2001, the amount of people from my life that have completed suicide. That is quite a bit of loss in such a relatively short period of time. Far too many for any one person to experience in a lifetime. To add to this, I have known a few folks that have thankfully been unsuccessful in their attempts. So for me, I feel a deep soul hurt with this topic along with an urge to educate others and serve as an advocate for suicide prevention. The hurt in my soul goes to my very core. This deep hurt encompasses those who have lost lives to this epidemic. Folks that hurt so deeply in their own walks that they feel like there are no other options but terminating their lives. I would be remiss if I did not extend my sincere empathy to those left behind from the aftermath of such tragic events. This is the most challenging blog I have written because the emotions still surface and feel tender or even raw.
I will never forget the first call I got telling me about a friend who committed suicide in 2001. It was my first experience with suicide, with losing a friend and with having somebody gone by means other than natural causes. To this day I do not know the core events that lead to his decision but I was able to see the ripple effect that reverberated through his loved ones and our community. It was a life-altering event, one that I will never forget. This event left me numb, in disbelief and confused about the array of emotions I felt.
What prompted this post?
I heard about a new 20th Century Fox film that is coming out this month (February 2017) that appears to suggest suicide as opposed to seeking professional help. The trailer is erie, suggestive and highly disturbing. In addition to this film, the creators have also launched a website that offers “treatment”. As you click “begin treatment”, you are taken to a screen of chilling images with three “meditations”. Meditations, like the movie, are suggestive of taking one’s own life to end the pain felt deep inside. I was beside myself, triggered and nauseated. Do I understand this is a movie and that I do not need to go see it…yes I get that! However, the most troublesome piece is the lack of attention to the permanency of such a choice and no call to action to seek professional help. There is not a crisis number or a link to any of the many organizations dedicated to changing this epidemic. The other bothersome piece is there is not a disclaimer about the content.
There are highly impressionable children and teens that could easily come across this trailer or website who are not resourced enough to seek out help and perhaps not at the developmental age to think more logically about the content presented. As an advocate, I want to encourage caretakers to know what is out there and how to talk about these real topics that are ever present in our society & culture.
How do you talk about suicide?
Great question! Some folks feel like if they bring up suicide with somebody, they will plant a suicide seed. This is not the case as most folks that have those thoughts, had them previous to anybody talking to them about it. So how do we talk about it?
- Train yourself in verbiage and scenarios from courses such as ASIST (see resources below)
- Explore the individual’s feelings of hopelessness and work together on tools to help them navigate their tumultuous seas
- Investigate what events (life changes, transitions, new medications, etc.) have been going on since having suicidal ideation/intent
- Converse about death with candor – this can help ameliorate unspoken truths, fears and unanswered questions. Thinking about death is normal as each of us will die, it’s an inevitable part of our time here…it’s not an “if” event but rather a “when”.
- Talk in person via open and honest conversations. About the reality of choosing suicide over living. This decision would be non-reversible and that life is finite, so no do-overs.
What to do if you feel uncomfortable with talking to loved ones about suicide.
Whether you are contemplating suicide or a loved one of a person considering suicide, there are a lot of resources out there! In addition to mental health professionals, many other folks such as first responders, pastors/clergy and established crisis centers work together to prevent suicide. If people did not ultimately care, there would not be such available resources. As humans, we feel a moral or ethical duty to protect other human beings from taking their own lives. Reach out to help if this topic is too challenging or uncomfortable.
What holds people back from seeking help? Feeling things such as:
- Nobody will understand me, I can’t share how I’m feeling openly
- People will think I’m crazy for having these thoughts
- Nobody cares about me in my own family so how could a stranger care about me?
- I have no hope for a better tomorrow, so help is pointless
- I just want this pain to end
- I’m too far into my pit to be pulled out
- I’m conflicted about whether I want to live or if I want to die
As humans, we are a resilient bunch who can and have overcome most obstacles in our path. There have been some really horrific things people have endured yet they have survived and even more importantly they have found the hope to choose living another day. Do you know how resilient you are?
“In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.” ~Albert Bandura
To Those Contemplating or Having Tried
I cannot know the depths of your hurts, disappointments, feelings of failure, etc. I do however know the pain of losing people I care for deeply to this. People that have been friends, mentors and all around good human beings. What happens if you decide on this course of action and are unsuccessful? Have you thought of the possible consequences (both positive and negative)? There may be an extended stay in a psychiatric unit, rehabilitation should any injuries have occurred in the process, evasive medical procedures and more emotional distress of surviving the attempt. A more positive consequence could be a new perspective on life or a second chance at life. Step back from that precipice and look into getting the help that is here for you. Whoever you are in this vast world, there is help for you.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What keeps you here besides being a one-of-a-kind (1st & Last Edition)? You are a one-of-a-kind that will never be duplicated…that’s pretty special if you ask me!
- What are you here to teach the world about?
- Will you let somebody in to see your pain and walk along-side you before deciding on this permanent solution?
- Can we spend some time together and talk?
Below are references and resources for you and/or your loved ones. From one human to another, let us notice those struggling and offer help before we cannot. If you or somebody you know is struggling, please reach out to me or another source for help.
Colorado Health Foundation, 2016
Websites & News Stories
© Erica Faulhaber 2017 – This blog may be shared or reprinted as long as the information is unedited and the author bio, including contact information is printed along with the blog.