September is Suicide Prevention Month, but I’m sad to say that didn’t inspire this post.
Within weeks of each other this past month, young family members of mine lost someone dear to them. Two young people weren’t able to get past the point where their minds told them death was best for their situations. Each loss leaves so many friends and family feeling lost, confused, and wondering what they missed, that, if they’d recognized it, could have saved the victim.
Yes, victim. Suicide is rarely a case of someone feeling sorry for himself or crying out for attention. A lack of attention might put him on the path that ended in suicide, but it was an illness, a malfunction of the brain, that resulted in his death.
I’m not a trained professional, I’m a survivor. To be honest, I never actually attempted to kill myself, but I had made a mental list of everything available to me to end my life. I was able to fight long enough to get help, to find someone who’d take me to the hospital. According to the leader of the therapy group I was in at that time, most people don’t survive the point I’d reached.
As I mentioned, “poor me” rarely leads to an actual suicide attempt, from what I’ve learned in the years since. The brain can normally slip into thoughts of people not caring enough, or being a loser, “I wish I was dead,” but those feelings pass. When depression has become serious enough to lead to thoughts of suicide, the brain calmly and rationally points out how your loved ones would be better off without you. You understand they’ll feel pain, but by not having to suffer through/deal with all the problems you’ll create in your lifetime, they’ll be happier.
It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? That same voice in your head that says you really ought to get off your butt and do the dishes, begins to point out all the methods at hand to end your life. It happens that simply.
As the friend or loved one, how can you recognize the difference between the two moods? The best answer is you can’t. You can’t rush a friend to the hospital every time they mutter, “I wish I was dead,” either. But you can start by talking.
Opening a dialog can help the person who hasn’t reached ideations—the point of listing various methods. You can gauge the severity of the depression…use your gut. Talk to his friends, a school counselor, your minister. If you continue to have a bad feeling, act on it. A person can be hospitalized involuntarily in most states, if they appear to be a threat to themselves or others. A doctor will interview the person before admitting, so if it’s a false alarm, you’ll only have to deal with a pissed-off loved one. That’s far better than dealing with the loss and wondering what you missed.
What you missed. You’ve probably heard the usual list of warning signs, (if not, go to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for more information), but there’s a group of signs most people wouldn’t recognize as being a problem. In some cases, the victim will have reached the decision that death is the right thing to do, but rather than do it that instant, they get their affairs in order. Someone might get all the bills paid, clean house, and cook dinner for the family–all normal enough events, but he might be unusually happy while doing so. Young people give away possessions, or might slip up and mention, “When I’m gone.”
They’re all things you see and do every day, right? Is it any wonder we miss signs? Again, I say trust your gut. You won’t always see it coming, but it’s so much better to be wrong about him wanting to do it than realizing it after the fact.
I’m not trying to scare you, just make you aware. We’re taught the signs for different types of serious illnesses, but not suicidal ideations. You can teach yourself, though, through groups like Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Like CPR training, you never know when it might be something you need to know.
I can’t tell you why I’m here and others aren’t. Some part of me fought back. Oh, and speaking of which, don’t assume that because they have an upcoming appointment or group therapy session they’ll get the help they need. Among the calls I made that night, I spoke to the suicide hotline. I was told to call my doctor Monday morning for an appointment. I wanted to scream, “I might not be here Monday.” I’m lucky. I’m blessed. I’m here.
It can’t be said enough. Please go to Suicide Prevention Lifeline and read the various articles on how you can help. You don’t need to volunteer somewhere if that’s not your thing. Think CPR or the Heimlich maneuver: learn what to do in case you one day need to.
The biggest way you can help is to spread the word. Share the link Suicide Prevention Lifeline on social media every so often. Don’t wait until next September. Make sure the young people in your life know where they can go for help, or what to do if a friend seems depressed. Just talking about it, reminding people there’s help, might fall on the right ears at the right time. You might never know whose life you saved, but his loved ones will reap the rewards of your help.
If you suffer from depression, seek help. You are worth it. You’re stronger than you think. This moment is not forever. Things do get better, but it can take time to get there. You can do it. You are loved. You are worth being loved.
And go to Suicide Prevention Lifeline to find out how to get the help you need.