Talking About Suicide

image: man with no money

When one looses the will to struggle, and the capacity for hope, one is no longer living.
- Thanksgiving 2012

The association between suicide and unemployment is more important than the association with other socioeconomic measures. Although some potentially important confounders were not adjusted for, the findings support the idea that unemployment or lack of job security increases the risk of suicide and that social and economic policies that reduce unemployment will also reduce the rate of suicide.
- Suicide, deprivation, and unemployment: record linkage study

The PROSPECTS for the re-employment of older workers deteriorate sharply the longer they are unemployed . . . This is all the more reason to support the unemployed and depressed who threaten suicide.
- Thinking About Suicide

“People who commit suicide feel all alone, and that no one gives a damn. People who commit suicide just want someone to care.”
- Anonymous

Advice on Talking to Someone with Suicidal Thoughts from Someone Who’s Had Suicidal Thoughts

By Lydia Russo
American Foundation For Suicide Prevention
January 3, 2018

During the fall of 2009, each day began in the exact same way: I would be wide awake at 2:00 a.m., nervously shifting around in my bed. As the minutes ticked by and the windowgradually gave way to sunlight, I became increasingly consumed with fear. What was this terrifying thing that was happening to me and why couldn’t I do a thing to stop it?

According to my doctors, I was suffering from depression - a term I had used cavalierly throughout my entire life. Surely what I was experiencing could not be something as innocuous as depression?

While everyone’s EXPERIENCE WITH DEPRESSION is unique, mine went something like this: a July that didn’t feel quite right, an August defined by escalating fear, and then, as of Labor Day weekend, a two-and-a-half-month period of suicide-obsessed hell. I thought I was losing my mind.

I was 36 at the time, but I might as well have been five years old. I had gone from being a bubbly, high-functioning professional and loving family member and friend to a woman totally incapable of caring for herself. I had no appetite and would never eat more than a third of what was put in front of me. I put zero effort into my personal hygiene, my physical appearance, or my homes cleanliness. My whole body was shaky. I could not laugh or cry. My once strong voice had transformed into a raspy whisper; eventually, I stopped talking altogether. 

If you looked at the external appearance of my life at the time, none of this made any sense. I had a great job, a loving husband, supportive family and friends, and a clean bill of health following treatment for breast cancer. Yet during those months, the world I once knew ceased to exist. I found myself gone from that world, and never thought I would live to see it again.

If you have a loved one who is SUFFERING WITH suicidal thoughts, perhaps my experience will give you SOME IDEAS about how to provide the support they need.

First, from the time my suicidal thoughts took hold until the time my depression began to lift, most of my waking moments were spent contemplating ways to escape the pain. A huge part of my anxiety was living with thoughts of suicide, but not being brave enough to articulate them to my loved ones. I did not want to scare them, and it seemed an enormous burden to bring others into my frightening world. When my family eventually BROADENED THE TOPIC of suicide with me, they did so without mincing words, and it was an incredible relief. Please don’t be afraid to talk directly with someone you think may be contemplating suicide. It may be scary for you, but it is terrifying for your loved one to be alone with those thoughts.

Most of us with suicidal thoughts have a crippling fear that our life is on the verge of falling apart, and a loop of negativity is often playing on “repeat” in our minds. Encourage your loved one to express these thoughts out loud or in writing. The more your loved one addresses their fears head-on, the less power those fears will have over them. In fact, until I was able to clearly articulate the depths of my anxiety to my psychiatrist, I didn’t make an ounce of progress. Once my doctor recognized that anxiety was the dominant emotion of my depression, he treated it with the aggressiveness it required. This was a game-changer for me.

Next, and I know this is a tall task, but your unwavering confidence in your loved one’s recovery is essential. Please find the strength to look your loved one in the eye and say with confidence, over and over again, that they will get through this and that they will get back to their old selves. They likely will not believe you, but do not be deterred. Try saying things like, “I know you think you will never get through this. I know you think life will never be the same again. I know you think no one has ever experienced this pain and that no one can help you. But I am here to tell you your brain is playing tricks on you. You WILL get through this.”

Regardless of all your kindnesses and demonstrations of support, please know that your loved one may be terrified of losing you. I cannot underscore enough the importance of reassuring your loved one that you are not going to give up on them and that you will never leave. When I first told my mother about my suicidal thoughts, she said something that kept me going through my darkest moments: You will get through this. I will carry you on my back if that’s what it takes to get you through this.

When your loved one is depressed, they know that they are asking a tremendous amount of you and this probably makes them feel guilty. Depression often renders them incapable of feeling, much less expressing, love for you or anyone else in their lives, which compounds their guilt. Your loved one realizes they are pushing you away, and it likely breaks their heart. Please know that once their depression lifts, all of the love that was once there will come rushing back.

Finally, your loved one knows you cannot wave a magic wand and make it all go away, although they know you desperately wish you could. What matters most is that you simply walk with them through this valley, and that you never, never, never give up.



What Not To Say About Suicide

By Madeline Muotka
Oct 3, 2016

How many times do I have to say it before it makes you uncomfortable, before you get squeamish, before you want to run away and leave this word in a room bursting with shame, misconceptions and ignorance? Saying suicide even just once is more than enough to evoke extreme discomfort from many.

As a suicide attempt survivor, Im speaking out about what I and others I know dislike hearing after people learn about our attempts. This is how you shouldn’t react when learning someone has attempted or actually died by suicide. All of the following contribute to the blanket of shame and embarrassment that can envelope suicide attempt survivors and follows those who have fallen to suicide.

1. Dont start by asking why.

This is the most common question I’ve encountered once people find out I’ve attempted suicide. Why did you do it? The nurse in the emergency room actually asked me why, and then reminded me how young I am. I can’t give an external reason for why I overdosed. (I can. Ed) I didn’t attempt suicide because I got in a fight with a friend, because I failed a test or because I lost a game. It’s called an illness. Mental illness is a real medical condition. I was tired of the emotional pain I was in. Did I really want to die? No, I wanted the feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, emptiness and despair to go away. Don’t minimize my pain and pretend it doesn’t exist. I didn’t ask for this illness. Nobody asks for any illness.

2. Don’t call them selfish.

Another common reaction to someone attempting suicide is calling them selfish. Don’t you realize there are people who love and care about you? Don’t you realize how many people you would’ve hurt if you had actually died? When you’re about to attempt suicide, youre likely not thinking about yourself at all. You’re thinking about how everyone would be better off without you, how you’re a burden to everyone, how you’re doing everyone a favor and how you’re undeserving of life.

3. Don’t say, It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

This has thoroughly annoyed and irked me. A temporary problem? My documented medical condition of bipolar disorder is clearly a temporary problem. Right now, many mental illnesses are treatable, but it’s often a lifelong journey. Maybe if there wasn’t such a stigma around mental illness, I would’ve gotten help sooner and found additional ways to manage my suicidal ideations. My attempt was at the time the only way I could acknowledge I actually needed help and get that help.

4. Dont say, “It’s the easy way out.”

Suicide is anything but the easy way out. It’s the last straw after battling and fighting your own thoughts for so long. It is succumbing to the illness and cancerous thoughts that have consumed you. You’ve tried to fight it for so long, but just cant handle it anymore. You’ve had enough of being miserable.

5. Don’t say they did it for attention.

I clearly wanted all the negative criticism and reactions people who’ve attempted suicide receive. I tried to hide how much I was struggling for the longest time because I was mortified I couldnt seem to deal with real life. Most everyone I know who has attempted suicide is ashamed. They don’t want people to know. How this seemingly corresponds to wanting attention is beyond me. There is still a stigma surrounding mental illness and an even worse stigma surrounding suicide.

6. Dont glamorize it.

There is absolutely nothing glamorous about suicide and suicide attempts. It’s not cool. It’s not killing yourself because you can’t be with the love of your life. Sorry, Shakespeare. Its real, and what’s real isnt always pretty. It shouldn’t be romanticized. This is so ludicrous and creates an absurd dichotomy of glamorizing something that is so negatively perceived by society. We cant nonchalantly throw around the idea of killing oneself or say, “Just shoot me. “ That’s minimizing what suicide truly is.

Suicide is a legitimate cause of death and needs to be treated the same as any other cause of death. Death is death, a sad occasion all around. However, those who die by their own hands deserve the same respect and dignity as those who die in any other way.

Please, respect what I and many others have been through and open the door to separate shame, misconceptions and ignorance from suicide. If you know someone who has attempted suicide, let them know they are loved. Tell them that although you might not be able to fathom the pain theyre in or what they’re going through, you’re there to support them no matter what. Your love for them is not dependent on whether they’re having a good or bad day. Let them know how much they mean to you and how much they always will.