Understanding the “Why?” in Suicide


There are thankfully, fewer and fewer subjects that are still taboo. Suicide is one of those dark subjects that seems to be okay to think and talk about openly as long as it’s not you personally that’s had to deal with one in the immediate family. Is this what you believe? Or do you think that this was how people thought long ago and now things have changed to the point where people talk more openly about things?

So then let me ask you this: If you were next to someone who was talking about someone who committed suicide, how comfortable would you be joining in? Worse yet and far more personal, if someone told you directly they couldn’t take life anymore and were going to end it all, would you have the slightest idea what to say?

When I’ve been close enough to have someone open up about contemplating suicide, a number of triggers immediately get set into motion. One of the first things I think about is trying to discern how real the possibility of suicide actually is, how imminent or is it just a thought in passing quickly dismissed. What if I think it’s not imminent and this is the last attempt at reaching out for help? And I take someone talking to me about the subject as possibly a person who needs help without asking. Are they looking for reasons to live? Crying out for intervention or hope? Are they seeking attention or are things so utterly hopeless that it is the release that they seek?

And sooner or later, whether it’s at this stage of the conversation or hearing about it long after, the inevitable question of, “Why?” arises. For some people the question can eventually be answered and for others, the question will go unanswered for all time, and the pursuit of a rational answer to explain it can never be found. And accompanying the question of, “Why?” is the question, “Is there something I could have done to prevent it?”

Such detailed examination of the past is usually not all that productive. “Was it something I said?” “I should have seen the signs.” “If only I had been there he or she would have listened to me!” Don’t beat yourself up. You are entitled to your life and to live it in joy, happiness and to find fulfillment. Unfortunately, while every other person has the same entitlement, there have been and will continue to be some who will never experience the happiness and contentment and cannot deal with the demons that assail them.

I have penned thoughts on suicide before in this blog, and were you to read back issues of this blog, you might find those words. So why go through this topic again? Time and audience is the answer. Time because you the reader may know someone intimately who is contemplating bringing about their own death in the near future and may have come to this blog only recently. And audience because as my audience grows there will be some for whom these words resonate that have not the knowledge that they’ve been here before. And if a life; one life only, is saved until death comes naturally in the future, then I am happy to address this again.

And now the connection between unemployment and suicide. Understand that anyone who is out of work should be monitored closely by those closest to them, and that it is our responsibility – yours and mine – to ensure that we don’t presume someone else will keep connected to them and check in on them. I’ve been out of work in my past, and few things are worse than the immediate and poignant silence that comes about when friends retreat and go into silence. When people fail to talk to us because they are afraid they don’t know what to say. It doesn’t matter you see. No, just carrying on conversations, conversations about the news of the day, the weather, sports, politics, etc. – the normal stuff – keeps people feeling normalized.

You don’t have to be a Counsellor and deal with preserving someone’s mental health. You don’t have to be a compassionate Social Worker and know all the community agencies. You don’t have to be a trained Medical Practitioner and ‘fix’ their physical health. What you can be is available. “Hey want to meet for a coffee?” “Interested in coming over and watching a movie?” “I’m heading out to watch the kids play hockey. Want to come?” Simple everyday stuff, no training required.

If you act now and keep friends and family connected and involved, you’ll never question what you could have done to prevent a suicide. And to be entirely blunt and sincere, when listening to someone who has had a close friend or family member commit suicide, I don’t put much effort caring for the person whose gone – because they are gone. I invest the time and care in compassionately being concerned about the person talking – are they are risk of depression or worse?

Do what you can now, let go of the pain and the recrimination. You have a life to live and that’s a precious thing not to be fully lived.

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5 thoughts on “Understanding the “Why?” in Suicide

    1. Thanks for your perspective. Die by suicide instead of commit suicide I can see is important to you, and a valid item for thought. Thanks for that. ‘Commit’ standing alone however is about having purpose as in, ‘committed to a cause’ or performing something as in, “he’s committed to his art”.
      In this context of suicide, the word is entirely correct as it is clear many who die by this method are committed to its unfortunate success.

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  1. This is too sensitive of a topic for it to be casually addressed by someone who has never personally experienced the pain of this kind of loss. The stigma and language must be changed if society is ever to truly “understand the why of suicide”….Science for one thing has most certainly come up with biological reasons as to why people get depressed and die by suicide. It is not a rational thought process and therefore is not a rational action. The very word “commit” suggests something criminal….come out of the Dark Ages….do people “commit cancer?”

    I hope you never have to comfort someone who has lost a child/loved one to suicide because take it from me….no one wants to hear “let go of the pain…” are you serious?? The pain of loss is uninvited company that will make its mark on a mother forever. You cannot just “let go.” The horror will haunt those left behind and there is no letting go. I hope you will visit my blog on this very personal subject for me. I have devoted my blog to “suicide …causes and effect” because I am reminded every single day of my life for nearly five years…that a most wonderful son is gone from me because of a depression that was misunderstood and untreated. Unfortunately, I write about what I know.

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    1. I am sorry for the loss of your son, and your efforts to educate are truly commendable. The time you have taken to add your perspective to this topic is very much appreciated.
      However, I am disappointed but not surprised that you take issue with the, “let go of the pain” comment. Taken in context of course, and not something to be said at an initial meeting, it is exactly what many need to actually work toward doing. Holding on to the pain to keep a memory real is not only sad, it’s destructive and doesn’t honour the memory of the person gone.

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      1. Thank you so much for allowing me to express myself on your post. You could have just as well dismissed it and “not approved.”

        Of course, I am very sensitive to the issue of suicide. As for “letting go of the pain”..I find that I am not alone in wanting to “let go” but IT has a hold of me and not the other way around. The measure of pain in the realm of grief is also the measure of love that one has for the person who is gone. In my case, a child ..complicated by the fact that it was suicide. In my quest to understand all that I can about suicide, I have gleaned the internet and many, many books about this kind of death. Although, I understand it more now, I did not, however, when it became a reality for me and my family nearly five years ago. Being uninformed compounded my grief and the shock. But who knows about these things until it happens to them? It is more about feelings and emotions which are not so easily tamed when a part of you has been taken. I don’t expect everyone to understand my position. Time does not erase from my heart or mind that I once had a son who was the center of my world. Over time the pain becomes less intense but it is a sad reality that I live with and must cope. Thank you again for your “ear.” Blessings to you….

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