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‘Illnesses that no one saw coming’

26 comments

This week’s post is by Joel Kobren, who is not alone in holding some passionate views on the language around suicide. He has told his personal story here.

(Please note that there may be a delay in moderating any comments, as the editor of this site is out of the country through mid-October.)

Talking about suicide is counterproductive.

At first blush, this statement appears to be completely misguided. Bear with me here. 

Before a suicidal event, the focus seems to be on reducing stigma or preventing deaths. After a suicidal event, however, come the questions: Why did he/she do it, what was so terrible, did they really think this was the best solution, did I miss something, and so on.

The common thread in these questions appears to be the concept of choice. There’s the idea that a person who takes their own life, or tries to do so, did it purposefully and voluntarily. This is a sad and destructive point of view.

Let’s start with the current thinking around suicide, then let’s see how we can change it.

Stigma, or prejudice, is probably the biggest deterrent facing the people who are searching for help. The language around suicide has already blamed them and made their thoughts and feelings their fault, their choice. But nothing could be further from the truth.

In general, we can say people look down on, and judge, those who have had a suicidal experience. Typical comments refer to weakness, selfishness and cowardice. And then, of course, there is the inevitable question, “How could you do this to me?”

Let’s look at the vocabulary associated with suicide. People kill themselves, try to kill themselves, commit suicide. attempt suicide, fail at suicide, are successful at suicide. All are troublesome.

Then you have what might be the most confusing term. It is often suggested to patients as they start their recovery that if they look on the internet under “suicide survivors” they will find support groups and resources. But these are grief groups for parents, siblings and other family and friends.

Here is what’s troublesome about the term “suicide survivor.” With cancer, heart disease, liver failure and so on, the survivor is the person who is directly affected by the health problem, who lives it and sometimes dies from it.

By taking on the role of “suicide survivor,” the bereaved accept the role of “victim” as well, since they are inexorably connected. You cannot be a survivor without being a victim.

And to be a victim, there must be a perpetrator.

Would that perpetrator, then, be the very person for whom they grieve? As I said, a troublesome term.

However, we all know that the true culprit of a death by suicide has yet to be revealed.

But we have a pretty good idea: Research has stated that more than 90 percent of the people who die by their own hand do so while suffering from mental illness.

This begs the question: Is death really their choice? If they had died from untreated cancer instead, would we blame them, or would we have compassion for their terminal illness? And if mental illness is the cause, how can responsibility be assigned to its victim instead? Why do we say they made a choice?If it is recognized that someone died while overcome by an illness, mental or otherwise, it becomes impossible to blame them for the event. The cause of death is the illness, not the stricken.

So a death by suicide is not a choice. It is a result.

And in that case, doesn’t it make more sense to use language that takes the responsibility, the blame, from the victim and puts it where it belongs: with the disease?

When the term “suicide” is one day replaced with a less blaming term such as “fatal depressive episode,” we have started to recognize the true nature of the event. It demonstrates that what has happened is not an assertive act but the product of a disease.

We begin to acknowledge the absence of intent, and we recognize the overwhelming darkness and hopelessness that defines such an illness at that advanced stage.

When we replace “killed themselves” or “committed suicide” with “had a fatal depressive episode,” we start to see the horror of the mental illness that took our son, our daughter, our sister, our brother, our husband, our wife, cousin or friend.

And we can reduce the stigma, we can open a real dialogue, we can stop blaming our loved ones and ourselves and get to the tasks at hand – understanding, healing and prevention.

My mother died of cancer only four months after her diagnosis. Only four months. She was progressively feeling more tired, more easily winded, and generally just “not right.” But the idea of going to a doctor was just not comfortable for her, and besides, where could she find the time?

Not even my father could get her to go to the doctor, so she died. Did she choose to die? Of course not. But she did choose to not go to the doctor until she could no longer ignore the changes that were happening to her. But was her death really her choice? Without all of the facts, can you really make a rational choice?

It’s been said that if you put a frog in a pot of water and slowly bring it to a boil, it will cook and die, but, if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out.

After a car accident, you are immediately aware of the need for medical attention. But when things happen slowly, gradually, over time, much like it is with some cancers or mental illness, it can easily be overlooked. It gives you plenty of time to talk yourself into believing that it’s not that big a deal. Maybe it’s just small changes in behavior or just signs of getting older.

It’s easy to ignore the things that can take our lives, because we don’t want to hear that something may be taking our lives.

No one should ever feel the need to wonder why, feel responsible for, blame the deceased for, search for something we know is not there. We die of illnesses. Sometimes we die of illnesses that no one saw coming.

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26 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Love this! There is no pain as sharp as searching online for support after a suicide attempt and finding that groups for “survivors” aren’t meant for you. I understand that individuals who have lost someone are feelings lot of things, including anger and despair, which could explain their “How could you do such a thing!” attitude, but this perspective certainly isn’t productive. Thanks for your post, Joel.

    Reply

    • Emily, Sorry my reply is out of order. I was trying to do it on my phone with only limited success. You will find it just below. – Joel

      Reply

  2. Very profound view of suicide as a condition. I feel like this is the most viable way to explain what happened to me to anyone who has not been able to uderstand it the way I have tried to explain. The depression gripping me slowly, but life happening so fast. There was no time to stop and ask for help and I wouldn’t know how to ask for help if there was time. So you keep going until you just can’t anymore. There was no choice. I couldn’t move. And so I had a near “fatal depressive episode” which sounds much more accurate than a failed suicide attempt or that I attempted to kill myself. It wasn’t death I wanted but peace. A stop to the pain. I did feel like a victim but I also felt guilty and tha I had vicimized others. My kids and my parents. I am ashamed to tell friends of my illness and my episode? Is that what you call it? The incident or occurance?

    Fantasic writing, Joel. This way of thinking and viewing depression could create better healing and more understanding.

    Reply

    • Emily,
      Thank you for you kind and thoughtful comments. When there is more pain after a near-fatal depressive episode than in the depression that caused it, something is broken. Those of us who suffer a causal illness and those suffering the grief of a sudden loss are the ones responsible for informing those who promote the stigma and prejudice associated with deaths from a self-inflicted injury; the uninformed. Again Emily, thank you.

      Reply

    • Christine, Thank you so much for your kind words. Your description for the diametrically opposed simultaneous experiences of “depression gripping me slowly, but life happening so fast” is a beautifully accurate description of the experience. Similarly, I kept seeing myself on a rollercoaster that only went straight out forward after that first high altitude release and then just going out into the distance towards a wall which, once hit, would be my death. Of course, in the roller-coaster I was at normal speed while the car and everything beyond was in slow motion. And just to clarify something Christine, I didn’t mean to imply suicide was a condition as much as a symptom, often fatal, of depression. As with cancer or heart disease (and many others) if left unchecked, for a myriad of reasons, the first sign can be death. And yes, I usually refer to it as “my episode” or “the incident”, but never “my suicide” or “my suicide attempt”. If others (family & friends?) do, I cannot stop them. It is my understanding that counts. Thank you again Christine for taking the time to comment. – Joel

      Reply

  3. Joel,

    Thank you for your insight.

    I am involved in the support sector assisting those at risk, yet NOT at risk due to existing mental illness, therefore addressing the other 10%, that by association, you referenced statistically.

    My thoughts are as follows.

    Suicide ideation is more a symptom of unbearable suffering, than it is a choice.

    We may expect that any living entity suffering from massive trauma and acute physical pain has a right to be relieved as quickly as possible from such a state, only IF there is absolutely no way to save them by medical intervention and triage. This is referred to as “mercy killing”, not to be confused with euthanasia.

    To an individual burdened by their own perception of a suffering hell, whether due to impairment by virtue of mental illness, physical malaise or both, their own rationale is perhaps simply switched to that concept of instigating ones own “mercy killing”. The statistical 90% of suicides you mention that are challenged by some type of mental illness will have perceived their own sense of suffering differently than other observers do.

    The other 10% are perhaps in the cohort of individuals that are either suffering due to sudden recent acute physical impairment and pain, or they are people that have suffered recent intense life trauma and / or loss, perhaps involving guilt, that is not just something that a period of mourning can resolve. In this way their judgement is greatly impaired and although they are not mentally ill, they are potentially in the first stage of PTSD.

    In 100% of the cases the common theme is likely to be that these individuals have had something or in fact someone, rob them of all their human dignity, either in reality, or in perception for some of those individuals. Without dignity, no person can tolerate physical and / or emotional pain for very long.

    Putting more value and emphasis on human dignity should be a priority in all cultures, doing so may greatly reduce suicides and it will certainly reduce the epidemic of mental illness that diminishes all humanity.

    Reply

    • Emily,
      Thank you for you kind and thoughtful comments. When there is more pain after a near-fatal depressive episode than in the depression that caused it, something is broken. Those of us who suffer a causal illness and those suffering the grief of a sudden loss are the ones responsible for informing those who promote the stigma and prejudice associated with deaths from a self-inflicted injury; the uninformed. Again Emily, thank you.

      Reply

  4. Joel,

    Thank you so very much for your keen insight. I think of this often. As a woman who did make an attempt and am now feeling the “wrath” of people who are angry with me…and hearing people say I did it for a “cry for help” because I didn’t “succeed”…I often wonder if these people actually HEAR what they are saying. It is not easy to get to that point of wanting to end your life..and I do not believe it is easy for anyone to cause/inflict harm on their own physical body. It comes with years of struggle and pain and immense fear, and psychological and spiritual torture – and emotions and feelings that, in my opinion, our brains haven’t even identified yet. It is not easy. I am 39 now..I have had chronic suicidal ideations since my mid-twenties. I had a successful career with them, had unsuccessful relationships with my ideations, went to university with them, they lived with me much like my pets did. I carried (carry) them around with me. For three solid years I studied every California Bay Area bridge, tide patterns, traffic patterns, pedestrian patterns, everything I could in the event I chose that as my method. Not one person new. After my attempt I began Electro Convulsive Therapy in hopes of stopping my ideations. It’s worked in small blips. For the past two weeks I’ve not had one ideation…and the amount of “brain space” I have to think of other things – better things – more beautiful things – is liberating.

    I just realized that what I have written is sort of off topic…but I thank you so much for your thoughts and sharing your opinion. Do you have a website or anywhere that you write?

    Many thanks, Jessica L. Blau, http://www.ilostmy30s.tumblr.com

    Reply

    • Jessica, Nothing you say about your personal experiences with near-fatal depressive episode (and I believe that what you described falls into that category, would ever be “off topic”. Every perspective, every experience, every perception adds to the conversation, the conversation that is eventually going to change views, perspectives and attitudes. You story resonates with me because my first thought of wanting to die (but somehow by my own hand never occurred to me) started at eight years old. Four marriages, four live-in relationships, unknown numbers of girlfriends and one-night stands and countless jobs along the maze of about five separate careers, all done by the “tender age” of 58 (yep, fifty eight). My suffering and torment ended with a .357 Magnum and a 38 Special+P Hollow Point bullet. Although angry and disappointed with the result, it did put me on a path where I found the help I so badly needed all those years. And the diagnosis of Bi-Polar Disorder was enlightening. Now, almost five years after the event, I have a life I never imagined even existed. The take-away here is, if you need help, get it. Somehow, find a way. If you look for it, you will find it. There are many private organizations that will provide the help for people without insurance and don’t qualify for assistance. You too Jessica, can find what has eluded you for so long. Oh, and I know a number of people who have utilized ECT and they have different stories about the number of treatments it took, and how many time they thought they were finished only to return, But for all of them, it seemed to be extremely helpful. You have my best wishes Jessica. – Joel

      Reply

  5. I’m sorry but society in general does not hold your position. For this very reason, I have not talked about my suicide attempt experience situation with others than this site. There are “triggering events” that lead us to suicide ideology and comes the realization that there is no way out of the predicament. Whether or not you may define it as “mental illness” is a matter of sematics and a label it as you chose to identify. There too is the constant rumination of the state of our situation with no definitive answer as to why, and then there is the solitude too. I do know that different people have various levels of “inner resilience.to respond to similar events differently. Some would hypothesize as the presenter that it is a matter of brain neurotransmitters and that you have some mental illness. Some of us mistakenly have turned to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechnism which further adds another layer to our personal problems. They say with lifes experiences comes personal wisdom, yet there are few answers to our predicament except being placed on prescribed drugs to help deal with the situation. I am still searching for answers,

    Reply

    • Rick, thank you for your comment. You are absolutely correct in saying that society does not hold to my perception. In fact, it is that fact alone that motivates me to discuss my experience in the terms I use because the crux of the matter is not whether they understand me, but rather that they understand the difference between seeing a fatal self-inflicted injury as something someone does, or something that happens to someone. Robbing a bank is something YOU DO, Cancer, Pneumonia, Turrets, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Depression; these happen TO YOU. There cannot be any guilt or any blame, not if you understand. And the only way others will learn is if we teach them. Some will understand and others will not. That’s okay, as long as you do. I do have to question your comment that mental illness is a matter of semantics. The behavioral health sector has come a long way from warehousing drooling shells of human beings restrained with massive doses of Thorazine. There is no answer that will fit all suicides, an answer to all the questions that are generated by the experience. There is only a path along which you can find many answers, many of which you will find apply to you. But you will be the best judge of that. I know people with Bipolar who take their meds religiously and function better ever, holding down jobs, in relationships, and enjoying their life. Others don’t take any meds. Those with loving and understanding families do the best but the families will all tell you of the difficulty it puts on them dealing the family member’s mood swings. Those without the natural support of family and friends have a much different outcome. For some reason, when I came out of my two day coma, I knew that many of the people I thought were the closest to me were not going to be there, although I didn’t know who. I also knew that there would be people around me who would be supporting and loving (in varying degrees) and will help get me through this, including some I haven’t even met yet. Two sisters, ad father and a wife all left as fast as their feet could fly. For me, it was a curiosity to see if there is indeed a life for me. And I can tell you that if you’re willing to put in the work and perhaps, not trust, but collaborate, with both medical and psychological professionals, well, maybe Rick. Maybe you can find your answer.
      Thank you Rick, for your thoughts. You can respond to me through this site if you like. Peace & Strength – Joel

      Reply

  6. I am very mindful of and invest time and energy into creatively using language positively. In most areas of my life this is my default choice.

    Despite my intention of wanting to perpetuate changing the stigma around suicide and my personal experience with it, I had not even contemplated or had not even considered the possibility of changing the language that I was using. I had subscribed to the perpetrator, victim and survivor monikers and mentality.

    Your language turnaround and your go forward perspective has initiated a turnaround for me, in feeling and thinking. For this I am eternally grateful. I value and appreciate your insight to further perpetuate healing and growth.

    I am no stranger to synchronicity, and coming upon this article is at the most perfect time. As my daughters and I continue to heal from their Father’s and my husband’s fatal depressive episode, I believe your sharing this perspective will be a source in which I will draw.from as we move forward.

    I’m grateful for this.

    Reply

    • Sherry,

      Thank you for the privilege of allowing me into a most painful, and personal, part of your life. I am truly humbled. Please accept, and pass on to your daughters, my deepest condolences.

      Although I do not see the passing from one cause more important than another, I do acknowledge that no two passing’s are equal or alike. They each represent the person and the means. It can never be about the suffering, whether in my mother’s cancer or in your husband’s psyche. It is their endurance we must see, their strength. I don’t think of her pain in those last days, but of all the time I annoyed her asking for a bite of her toast, even after she offered to make on. It was such a loving annoyance.

      Your comment has impacted me in another way. The section resolving (hopefully) the perpetrator, victim and survivor identifications concerned a number of people I relied upon for editorial guidance and certain factual accuracies. There was a concern that people would either think I was angry or, they would become angry,,, or both. You thoughtfulness and kindness has been just the guidepost I needed to know that there are people out there who want to see things in a better way, a way that allows them to move forward.
      Synchronicity… I’ve always liked that word.

      If you ever want to talk, we can figure out a way.

      Take care Sherry,
      Joel

      Reply

  7. Joel, I can’t begin to tell you how much this post impacted me. I’ve read it several times over the past week, wanted to share it with my Suicide Shatters FB page members, but had to really think on all that you shared here to get comfortable with what I learned and how best to share that.

    I’ve just shared it now on my page Oct. 15th, brought up two points you raised, one being that suicide is not “chosen”, and that is something I have always believed, the second is your point that those bereaved referring to themselves as “survivors”, something I’ve always done but with a designation of being a “loss survivor” versus an “attempt survivor”. I am constantly doing my best to use correct language around suicide and mental illness, educate quite a bit on it but your post here has left me feeling I most definitely need to reconsider using the term “survivor” at all to describe myself because I have never attempted and therefore am truly not a survivor – I am a suicide loss griever, or bereaved by suicide loss.

    Your post as well as the blog on talkingaboutsuicide.com which was also excellent, really caused me to ponder more than I have done for quite some time. I have always been amazed and concerned at how little support there is for the true “survivors” – those who have attempted and we’re fortunate to still have with us. As you shared, even the professionals after your attempt and release told you to do a search and yet all you found was grief/bereaved support groups/organizations – not much help to someone recovering from an attempt at all. The focus by most of the major suicide prevention organizations is on the bereaved, not those directly experiencing suicide and all that entails. I feel very grateful for each and every attempt survivor because I know how fortunate we are to have you still here with us. I know you faced odds many never get the opportunity to recover from. I know the very group with lived experience isn’t supported well and that many professionals themselves are uncomfortable supporting. The stigma that causes so many to not come forward for help is there ten-fold after an attempt and it needs to change. I have always felt it wasn’t right to not have a specific day to honour, acknowledge and appreciate attempt survivors. We’ve got World Suicide Prevention Day – it too is most often thought of in terms of “loss” survivors, not “attempt” survivors. Even though I am a “suicide loss griever”, I have created posters for my page attempt survivor members to let them know I care, that they matter, that I’m glad they are alive because I feel it is a much needed and important message to share with those who in many cases are still battling suicidal thoughts or attempts. With the upcoming “Survivors of Suicide” Day Nov. 23rd, once again this is a day for the bereaved, not those who attempted. I read a heart breaking post on a major suicide prevention FB page from an attempt survivor asking whether this event on the 23rd is “only” for “loss survivors” – their reply was yes it’s only for those who have lost someone to suicide. Just isn’t right :(.

    I’ve always known we can all learn much from those with lived experience, more than any other group and when I created my FB page, it was my intention to offer support for anyone who has had suicide impact their lives, whether they lost someone this way or whether they survived an attempt or are contemplating it. The members on my page who have attempted and survived are amazing people. They share very openly and they also share there isn’t much support for them at all. I always direct them to this blog as it’s one of few out there giving a voice that we all need to listen to and learn from.

    Your preferred language of “had a fatal depressive episode” is also something I’m still pondering on. Most suicides do involve some form of mental illness, depression being the most common and yet the statistic given is 90%, so there are 10% not included in this “depressive episode” so how do we describe them? I personally feel depression is present in all suicides in one way or another, whether it be diagnosed, undiagnosed or even situational. Wonder if you’d care to share your thoughts on this?

    I’m so glad you share so openly and found your post very thought provoking. Hopefully my members will give me some feedback and engage in some helpful discussion that may also cause them to pause on what you have shared and govern themselves differently because of reading your post. I’m also very glad you survived, have found a way to take what happened to you and put it to good use helping others and hopefully causing real change to take place within the suicide prevention professional communities as well. I think those of us impacted by suicide have a greater tendency to want to make a difference and share what we have learned. I’m always ever so grateful for this blog and what is shared here, it’s invaluable. Wishing you much impact in changing the language we all use on this topic.

    Reply

  8. Hello Barb,
    You’re right, depression is probably (I have to put that in since I’ don’t have the MD or PhD) present in all fatal and near-fatal depressive episodes. The statistic, from the CDC, states that, over 90% of suicides deaths are the result of “untreated and/or undiagnosed” mental illness. They go on to clarify that overwhelmingly these illnesses are affective (mood) disorders which include Major Depressive Disorder, Bi-Polar Disorder, Schizophrenia, among others. An component of all of these disorders is depression. When you look at the group with the highest rate of deaths from self-inflicted injuries, you see white males 65+ years old. I think you’ll find a lot of situational incidents there, but in my opinion, none without at least a situational depression. I think the take-away here is that they are talking about undiagnosed/untreated affective disorders. They don’t say the less than 10% don’t have depression, just that it’s that few who are getting treatment for it. It’s a sad state of affairs, to be sure.
    Thank you Barb, for taking the time to respond to this post.

    Reply

  9. I wish I could share this with my family, so they have a better understanding… But unfortunately they are not in a place to listen. Even though it’s been three years since my last incident, and I have and still do struggle with death as long as I can remember, my family still seem to be indifferent, angry, degrading… I understand that recovery is continuous. I just don’t think they understand that, and it is very painful already, and this added layer makes it even worse. But thank you. Hopefully one day they’ll in a place that they can listen.

    Reply

    • Neco,
      I also know what it feels like to have those closest to you show their anger and distain in the most hurtful ways. Between the brain numbing silence, the heart crushing words and the teasing indifference, the obstacles we have to overcome become higher, wider, thicker and exponentially more difficult to conquer. Yet we can and we do conquer them. Sometimes our supports change, sometimes we do. If I may suggest something. Write down what you want to say to them. Write it all down. Then put it in an envelope and put the name of the person you most want to say it to. Then put it somewhere out in the open where you know they’ll find it. It removes any chance of an argument and gives them a chance to change their thinking without being embarrassed. If that person embraces your plight they’ll share it with others in that circle. For me it was a combination of meds and therapy. I certainly can’t say what’s best for you but I will suggest you keep your mind and your options open. I really appreciate your comments Neco. Thank you.

      Reply

      • Thanks for taking the time to reply and for the suggestion. I did write something that is an essay of sorts, in response to recently losing many friends, and my partner because of a meltdown. I take full responsibility for my impulsive actions, but I feel a deep hurt from these losses and what was said in response to my episode. I fear that sending what I wrote to my family would just be viewed as reactionary and labeled as crazy, as that has always been the perception. I know my family loves me, and they are freaked out. I love them too and I’m really in a lot of pain and can’t fight their ridicule right now. I need them. I really do.

      • Neco, in the best of all possible worlds our families would be our strongest support. But even if they did understand in the end it’s our strength that will slay our demons. If our ‘family of origin ‘ cannot or will not support and accept us then we must find a ‘family of spirit ‘. Those who can understand, comprehend, be non-judgemental and give us a soft place to fall. It
        may not be your first choice but it may be your best choice. The only thing that matters is being in an environment where you can be who you are and heal as in your own time. Yes, you can heal.

      • Neco, the worst pain can the feeling of abandonment. And when the people who leave are those you are closest to, the pain can increase exponentially and be excruciating. That’s the hard truth. But the REAL truth is that when your natural supports fail and you don’t have a soft place to fall, you can stand. And don’t say you can’t. You can’t make them stay, but you can change what you need and who you need it from. It is no longer about their love, it’s about your survival and that’s worth the fight. There are people out there who love you, who value you, who enjoy you and appreciate you. Many of them you may not even met yet. That’s the fun part. And believe me, they’re there. When depression becomes overwhelming it can help to look at it from outside to see more clearly what it’s doing to you. Then you’ll be more able to fight and beat it. You are not alone Neco. You are not alone.

  10. Hello. Recently, a family member of mine had a fatal depressive episode. He is gone, and I have often wondered what happened and how we could have helped him. There seems to be little information and resources (maybe I haven’t looked hard enough) on how to help someone experiencing this level of pain. Also, we knew that he was depressed, and when we talked to him to understand how he felt and what he was thinking, he couldn’t express or put it into words. He was always full of anxiety and had no motivation in his daily routines. His face always appeared “concerned” and tormented.

    I am sad that there isn’t more help for people who feel alone and I am sad that when someone dies, it is too late to help. I would love to know more about what is happening inside in those dark moments. I just want to understand.

    As far as calling the friends/family “survivors of suicide”, I don’t know that the term is correct. I only know, based on my experience, that once my loved one died, we were hit with a tsunami of grief. I couldn’t breathe for 3 or 4 months. It’s like the unbearable pain that he (my loved one) was experiencing got spread to hundreds of people in just one moment.

    Now, since his death, I have had some friends and even my brother share that he has had thoughts of ending his life. So, I would love to know more about what helps. How can I help? I feel so powerless.

    Reply

    • First let me say that you have my profound condolences. For all my efforts to ‘normalize’ the grief experienced when the loss is from a fatal depressive episode, I am coming to understand that this group of bereft has an obvious secret: living with the question, ‘Could I have done something to prevent this? ‘ At first, that appears to be unique to this group. Should an answer be offered that hints of a ‘yes’ the flood gates of guilt might open doing more harm than good. But when you look around and that this person could have kept the car keys, or that one could have put in a pool fence, and another could have learned CPR and kept a portable defibrillator, and on and on. Learning how to speak to someone at risk, learning to use language that recognizes the illness element in this kind of potential injury or fatality can be places to start. But right now you know more than most. You can recognize how important the difference is between ‘are you thinking of hurting yourself? ‘ and ‘are you concerned about being hurt or killed from a self-inflicted injury? ‘ And bringing this forward might help with your pain, in trying prevent the pain of loss for others by preventing the loss of strangers. Stigma is by far the number one reason people don’t seek help. I wish you peace and love because you deserve them.
      Joel

      Reply

    • Hello Rachel,

      I just read your comment again and felt there was something left unsaid.

      On talking to someone you feel is at risk, being direct is best. Rest assured you cannot give someone the idea to harm themselves. So whichever terminology you use (or both) be compassionate, empathetic (not sympathetic) and direct. ASIST (Applied Sucide Intervention Skills Training) is a full 2 day (16 hr.) training. You can probably find one in your area through NAMI, MHA or a local behavioral health services provider. There is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). I hope this helps Rachel.
      Joel

      Reply

      • Thanks for thinking of me. I can’t go to that training b/c I live outside of the US. So, I have just tried to look for information online.

        I was reading some of the other posts here and I was amazed at some of the stories of families who are not helpful to their loved ones who are struggling. With our family member who passed away, we were quite involved and patient. We just did not understand his level of depression because he literally couldn’t express it. He had been in the military many years ago and it was almost like his emotions were shut “off”. We knew he was depressed and something was not right, but he would only talk when asked a question. He was almost “robotic”.

        With a loved one on my side of the family, I do ask him a lot of questions and he has been quite open. He cared for his wife with bipolar for about 25 years and now is going through a divorce. I hope and pray that he will be able to pull through this hard time, but now I know that if someone is in a dark enough place, the hopelessness can take over. The good thing is that he has talked to several of us about it, but sometimes tries to be “strong” and handle it alone.

        I have had to come to terms with the fact that I can only do what I can do. I can’t really stop or control these circumstances.

        Maybe next time I am in the US, I will be able to go to one of these trainings. I really would love to. I am thankful that God has grown my heart and opened my eyes. It’s now a passion of mine.

  11. Since you wrote, I sort of figured you liked it but it’s always nice to hear. Thanks Rachel. I appreciate that.

    Reply

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