Suns are singing, birds are shining, let’s talk about suicide.
Given its frequency in the world we live in plus my own experience of being, or talking to other people who are, suicidally inclined, suicide is a topic I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.
And now, even though it’s spring, lovely weather outside, and things are going well, I decided to share my thoughts on “this scary topic”, as scarce as they are (cos there’s really not much to say).
Suicide is a scary thing to talk about; no wonder about that cos it’s also scary to consider, do, or witness someone else do. But we need to talk about it: veiling it in silence raises the chances of it happening around us.
The first time I “met with” suicide was scary, too: I was little when I first heard someone I loved say she wanted to commit suicide. It left me permanently scared of the possibility that that person would actually do that, and it also gave me the idea of my involvement in her suicidal inclination. Like, you heard it, you could’ve said something; you could’ve done something; you could’ve changed her; you could’ve been better.
Happily, this person is still alive, but I’m mentioning this experience to talk about the situation of the person whose family, friends, significant other, etc. express the wish to commit suicide. The kind of guilt that may arise in such a situation is overbearing. With me, it continued into adulthood, and I’ve done the same “you could be better for her” kind of self-torture over again.
It is hard not to blame oneself in such situations; it is hard not to think we could/could’ve done something more to change that person’s mood, plans, life.
But after some more time passed, and I’ve thought about it some more, I reached the conclusion that you can’t instantly change a person when they want to die. There isn’t a “thing” you can do to make them want to live. Telling someone that life is beautiful, or even trying to show it to them (let’s go on a fantastic trip!, or let’s go on a double date!), more probably than not, won’t work.
A suicidal frame of mind is a rigid structure, and by that I don’t mean that it’s unchangeable, but that it takes time and skill to change it. Sometimes, professional help is best, and that’s one “thing” you can do to prevent someone you care for from committing suicide: encourage them to seek a doctor’s, or therapist’s help.
But otherwise than that, all you can really do when a loved one is suicidal is be with them. To stay by them, listen if they wanna talk, or just be there if they don’t, is a great gift you can give them, and it can be great help, too.
It is difficult, I know. It is crushing to hear the words “I don’t want to live anymore” from someone you love. It is scary, and it may make you want to turn away.
But I think we should help each other when we can.
We should talk.
We should keep up the fire. Remember Lord of the Flies?
“I’m scared (…) Not of the beast. I mean I’m scared of that too. But nobody else understands about the fire. If someone threw you a rope when you were drowning. If a doctor said take this because if you don’t take it you’ll die – you would, wouldn’t you? I mean?”
“’Course I would.”
“Can’t they see? Can’t they understand? Without the smoke signal we’ll die here. Look at that!”
A wave of heated air trembled above the ashes but without a trace of smoke.
“We can’t keep one fire going. And they don’t care (….) What’s more, I don’t sometimes. Supposing I got like the others – not caring. What ‘ud become of us?” (…)
“I dunno, Ralph. We just got to go on, that’s all. That’s what grown-ups would do.”
And not just because that’s what grown-ups do, but also because life is beautiful, and we should protect it.
Here I am, telling you that life is beautiful. Remember it’s not a good thing to say to someone who wants to commit suicide. Been there, done that, didn’t work. To use a silly comparison, it’s like telling someone who dislikes wine that it tastes marvellous. Been there, heard that, still don’t like wine. Moreover, it induces guilt in the person you talk to: I must be a hopeless case if I can’t, and don’t even wish to see the beauty of life. I’d better put an end to it.
Dealing with severe depression takes much more than telling the person that life is beautiful, or perhaps some more horrible stuff like stop whining, cheer up, get to work, find a boyfriend, and everything will be great. Being there for somebody is actually much more than that, regarding both the effort you make, and its value for the other person.
Anyhow, I’ll repeat the obvious thing that is sometimes impossible to believe. Not to convince anyone, but because I think so: life is beautiful.
Have a good day.