The word by itself stands alone. I remember hearing speeches about it. I could hear people talk and I knew people committed suicide, but it never truly registered that people actually committed suicide. It never registered as a severe mental illness. It never registered as real. Then my husband committed suicide. The moment that someone you know, someone close to you, takes their own life,the reality finds its way in. There becomes an “aha” moment. The action becomes real and in its realness it becomes a true possibility. A true way out. A solution. People react differently to this new reality. This new idea, they too, could take their own life.
In general, when asked if a person has considered suicide the consensus is a quick and instant “No, I would never do that!” The truth is that everyone has considered it at one point or another. To say they would never commit suicide is to consider it and decide against. However, to say, “Yes, I have,” admits to a maladaptive way of thinking. An instant stigma defining the individual, forever, as unstable. To have considered suicide is not out of the norm, we all have. Why then, is speaking about suicide so Taboo?
The idea of suicide combines death and loss. To the person who commits suicide they will cease to exist or move on depending on their belief. The people left behind are consumed with grief, cast upon them by a deliberate decision of the person who is no longer there. This act is uncomfortable to talk about because of the emotions and feelings involved. There is excruciating pain on all sides. No one has a cure-all for someone who is suicidal in order to permanently prevent them from the idea or action, nor do we have a morphine fix for those grieving over a loss to suicide. Suicide is going to happen and people will hurt.
In a serious conversation about life and death, it is difficult to tell someone that we have or had a plan to end our life. No one wants to admit they are capable of something considered so irrational. Yet, the person in this situation is in severe pain and has rationalized a simple, though rather permanent, solution. The human being does not like to feel pain. If we each take a moment to think about pain, we have memories of when we were in severe pain, but we can not replicate the actual feeling of pain. When in pain humans find any way possible to remove the feeling of pain, many self-medicate- alcohol, drugs, food, cutting. There are millions of coping mechanisms that we have created to deal with pain. Suicide is simply another process to deal with pain. It is a very permanent solution and unfortunately one that people chose. The hope is for individuals to identify they are in pain and find a better way to cope for the long run. To do this a person has to open up to the idea that they are in pain and seek help. This is not an easy task for anyone. It initially creates vulnerability and shame, but over time allows for safer long term coping mechanisms.
Survivors of suicide are the individuals who had a loved one take their own life. This is a difficult place to be because everyone grieves differently. There is no standard format of what to say or do in such scenarios. What one might say to a grieving friend for comfort might have the opposite effect on a different grieving friend. This makes it very difficult to approach someone who is grieving, especially when grieving over a suicide. An aspect rarely considered is how many people are affected by someone who has committed suicide. We meet hundreds of people and rarely do we know the background of those we meet. Careless comments are thrown around about suicide. In a daily conversation how many times do people put a finger gun to their head and pull the trigger or say I’d rather die or go shoot yourself. It happens more often than not. These comments deeply affect those who suffer from the loss of a loved one.
How do you react to someone who has or is considering taking his or her own life? While there is no foolproof action to take, this is a very difficult situation to be in. First, only the person who wants to end their life is capable of changing their own mind. Second, as a bystander there is no guarantee of the severity of the threat. People have used the threat of suicide to manipulate people and situations. They have gone as far as making an attempt to get their point across. There is no way to separate the two. All threats of suicide have to be taken seriously. Anyone who is considering the idea of suicide needs serious mental and behavioral help. To cast this responsibility onto someone is unfair, but those who are in these deep crevices of despair need help from others.
Suicide is taboo because it is an uncomfortable topic on every level, from the deceased to the living. There is no present solution. Yet, there are many who want to help. Suicide helplines, researchers, therapist, family members, friends, websites, survivors, and group therapy are all becoming more prevalent. Opening up to these atmospheres and people, lets both individuas who are contemplating their own death and those who have survived a loss know that they are not alone. They are not the only person to have considered and gone through pain. There is hope.