As I'm reading about Robin Williams dying from suicide, I'm reminded of this horrible moment that way too many face. His death puts a spotlight on it in our society, but unfortunately in a few days or weeks, society may well forget what happened. They may even fault him in some form or another, but sometimes it seems like nothing will change. It seems like nothing in our society will get done when it comes to suicide. Does society enable suicide.
How does our society enable suicide? There are many ways of course and most are oblivious to them.
First and foremost, is that society does not want to talk about suicide. There is no fostering of a place to go for those that are struggling with this. Yes, there are some hotlines, but how many people would know where to call if they needed to? How many people would even think to pick up the phone? Even with all the outreach, we are still seeing people commit suicide because they felt like they had no place to go and no one to talk to. (See information for suicide hotline below)
In addition, even if someone thought they should talk to someone else about the suicidal thoughts in their mind, most don't want to hear it.
- I've had people tell me "oh, just pray to Jesus and he will take care of your problems". Really - i'm ready to put the knife into my heart or the gun to my head or run my car off the road and you're telling me to pray about it. You may not understand what suicide is all about. Maybe that works for some, but in those moments of utter desperation, prayer is possibly a little too late (or not on the mind of the person struggling)
- I've had people tell me to just think happy thoughts or focus on pretty pictures, rainbows or positive things. Again, I say, "really - that's the best you can do to help me?"
- I've had people be too busy to listen or ignore my phone call or my many pleas for help. After all they were too busy and didn't have the time. When you're at this point, time is all you have.
When you're in the midst of despair, it isn't something that you can just say, "I'll think about something else" or "I will think about happy thoughts" or whatever else society thinks a person can do. When you're in these depths, the logical mind is not working. Hope is the furthest thing from your mind. In those moments, hope is suicide to that individual struggling with it.
When you're at the point of suicide, very little matters. Your life has become so overwhelming that suicide has become the only true friend from what you can see. Anything to the contrary seems nonsensical and foreign.
In the times that I have tried to kill myself, either angels have been there and helped keep my car on the road or someone has phoned me at the moment where I was ready to stab the knife into my heart. There have been times when I was so physically exhausted that I could not carry through with my plans. I remember walking out in the road in front of oncoming trucks and cars trying to time it so they would hit me and no matter what, my timing was never right or the angels were protecting me from myself.
Thankfully I have never owned a gun, because I would have most likely used it on myself at those dark moments. It would have been too easy of a way out for me. I don't want a gun near me.
You can't fix someone that is suicidal in a matter of moments or hours. You can't necessarily get them to reason that what they want to do is wrong. You can try, but most likely you are going to frustrate them and watch them lose their trust in you. Again, the suicidal mind doesn't see things like you see them. They don't see the logic because the logical side of their mind is clouded and foggy.
What can you do to help someone?
- First of all use your heart of compassion and caring for another human. Make your heart be central to all that you do, say, and feel in this moment. It will most likely invoke strong emotional reactions within yourself, but let that be okay for the moment. Be okay with crying with them at that moment. It may be reassuring to them. You don't have to lose control of your emotions, but an emotional connection is powerful if authentic and warranted.
- Be careful of what you say because a comment that is innocent to you may just add more layers of overwhelm upon that individual. At that moment, everything is too much. The breaker box is tripped and so adding one more electrical circuit will do no good.
- Remind them in a very gentle and authentic way that there are those including yourself which will be sad to see anything happen to you. Be honest and frank, but through a gentle and compassionate way. They need to know that someone truly and authentically cares. Too many in the world give lip service to this and for someone that is suicidal, they see through the difference.
- Stay with that person, no matter what the cost is. Don't leave them until they have gotten through this point of no return. If that means holding them and letting them cry for hours, then hold them. If that means sitting next to them or near them with them saying nothing, then do it. They need to know without a shadow of a doubt that someone is there for them and won't leave them. At that moment, they don't even want to be there for themselves.
- Let them know in no uncertain terms you are there for them and together you will get through this! Be there source of hope for that moment.
In our society, we want to admit people for sharing they are suicidal instead of holding their hand and walking through the fire. We want to medicate them instead of holding their hands through the fire. Believe me, I was careful what I said to people because I didn't want to be committed to a psychiatric hospital. I know society has good intentions here, but we've got to make this a place where people can talk and open up, not close up and suffer in silence.
One of the best moments in my life was when someone very close to me just held me for what seemed like an eternity that day. I think I cried for a million years, but they just held me. They didn't try to convince me I was wrong or that I needed to think one way or another. They just let me know that they were there for me. I tear up just writing these words because of what that moment meant to me.
If you know someone around you is hurting, be there for them. Walk through the fire with them, hand in hand, heart in heart. You don't have to have the right words to say, just let your heart connect with theirs and let them know that you are there for them no matter what.
Society does not need to be an enabler of suicide, but unfortunately sometimes it is. We tell people to man up and not feel. We tell people to move on. We tell people to just think happy thoughts and post beautiful things, but we fail to show up with authenticity.
It is high time that we begin learning the difference and doing things that matter in this world. If we continue to sit on the side of the road watching this all happen, but we fail to show up, are we really human? Do we really care? It is through authenticity that we will make this world a better place and we will be the source of comfort for person who sees suicide as the only way out.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 (US)
Blog Post And Images (c) 8/12/14 by Don Shetterly
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