Quite unfortunately, I’ve known about two incidents recently where people have taken their own lives. They were not clients of mine, thank goodness, but people in my extended community. People who had families and left behind not only people who loved them, but also many questions. Questions that may not ever be answered. For whatever reason, these two incidents have left me contemplating. Contemplating the suffering that these individuals must have felt and a deep empathy for them and their families. Truly, it must have been insurmountable in their minds – as I sat here holding my newborn, thinking that I can’t imagine ever intentionally leaving her behind without me.
When I was interviewing for my counseling internship in grad school many years ago, this topic came up and the two people I’d be working for and I got into a great discussion around exactly how preventable we believe suicide to be – in other words, once someone has come to the conclusion that there is only one way out, is there truly much any of us can do about it? Now, this is not to say that I, as counselor or friend or family member, wouldn’t do everything in my power to prevent it. Of course I would as most anyone would. But, I also know that much in this life is outside of our control, including other people’s thought and actions. It’s a sensitive subject, but despite all the preventative measures we might put in place, people can still do the unthinkable.
What I most want people to understand though is that we all have a responsibility to notice the people around us to the best of our ability. Take more time to look people in the eye and ask how their day is going – look for any changes in behaviors, attitudes, emotions and actions. This can even include someone who is struggling for a very long time who suddenly seems to be doing just fine – it’s not a bad thing, but we need to understand the sudden change. We need to be supportive of people getting the help they need, if they need it, whether though psychotherapy or psychiatry. Give people resources and outlets for help and acknowledge how it is more than okay to ask for help – keep shame and stigma at bay.
Remember: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”