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.