Why do I want to discuss suicide?
Because people don’t want to talk about it. They want to pretend it doesn’t happen. They want to forget.
This article is not an attempt to explain scientifically why some people suicide.
It is my view of suicide and attempted suicide based on personal experience and knowledge, not clinical observation.
It is also one of the most difficult things I have ever done but it is time to pay attention to the elephant in the room.
This will be my attempt to explain based on what I have seen and experienced.
It will also look at the fallout for the family and friends of those who suicide or attempt it.
So, take a deep breath and here goes.
In my own family, there have been a number of suicides over the years as well as an attempted one.
I have lost 2 male cousins to suicide. A work colleague lost his son. My husband’s youngest brother also took his own life. All of them were shocking and devastating. I suspect they all had different reasons and at least one may have done it in a fit of anger and not really wanted to die, but that was the result.
At least one other friend had a child attempt it but changed her mind.
There could be more because no one wants to talk about suicide. It can cause shame in the survivors.
Friends and family are shocked, guilty and flat-out shattered.
To anyone reading this and contemplating suicide don’t ever think that nobody cares or that the world will be better without you.
It takes years and years for people to cope with your decision. You are important and loved and we need you here. It can get better.
So how do I know how this feels?
My beautiful, oldest son tried and we are lucky to still have him. Three years ago I was woken with almost the worst news a mother could ever get. My other son and his ex had both been trying to call me but had to reach my then partner because my phone was off. As they were talking to me the ambulance was taking him to the hospital. He had injected himself with a whole vial of fast-acting insulin.
His brother found him and that is not a memory that will fade in a hurry for him.
They got to him quickly because he had sent emails to his father, brother and myself. He had texted his ex-girlfriend.
He had also posted on Facebook so he could say goodbye and outlined his reasons.
He felt worthless, a waste of space and had nothing to look forward to.
He had been suffering from depression for many years. He wanted a relationship, he wanted to not feel alone anymore so he chose not to be here anymore.
His thought at that time was that we were better off without him.
He was never a great communicator of his feelings even as a child.
Having a lifelong illness like Diabetes made him feel different, and probably not good enough. At the least, he did not feel normal.
He had parents who loved him, even though they were divorced, a large extended family and really good friends.
He had made a half-hearted attempt years before, the first time he stopped using insulin.
His then girlfriend told me what was going on and we got him help. But for me, I had been marking time till he tried again.
I am crying while I write.
Three and half years have passed but even thinking about it brings me to tears.
His brother who found him has to live with that memory forever and there isn’t a lot of help for families of attempted suicides.
His friends were shattered. One of his mates tried to break in as my son was home alone.
In the aftermath, they gathered him in and told him how loved he was.
I had a long drive to see him and spent the whole time agonising over what I would say. When I saw him in a hospital bed he didn’t want to look at me. By now he was feeling guilty and embarrassed. So I said to him, “Remember when you were a kid and I asked you what could you do to make me not love you?
Do you remember the answer?
He cried then because the answer was nothing. He knew I wasn’t angry.
To this day he has no idea of how devastating his act was to his family. He doesn’t want to talk about it and has moved on which is wonderful but it means we can’t talk about it.
It has taken me all this time to even consider trying to use my experience to help others.
His recovery wasn’t quick but now three years later he has a job he loves, a girl he loves and a better outlook.
He still has bad days but he talks about them more.
He went through counselling, uses Headspace apps and is on antidepressants. When he gets low he talks to me or a counsellor.
It is better now but I can never turn my phone off again.
My family was lucky but I am always vigilant. A bad day could be a sign of a downward spiral.
Some people said that it was a cry for help but they don’t know my son. He meant it at the time. He didn’t want anyone to feel bad that’s why he sent those messages.
The point of this is, that things can get better. It isn’t hopeless but if you kill yourself, you will never find out.
People who feel hopeless and sad can be helped.
But it is better to catch them before it gets to this point.
One of my son’s friends messaged me in the aftermath and commented that he had seemed very down a few days before the attempt. The friend was quite upset because she thought she should have said something then.
Hindsight is all well and good but it may not have helped. Then again, it may have.
Sometimes there are signs, mood changes, giving stuff away, and removing themselves from company. They could drink more or eat less. It may not be big things, it may just be more hugs.
Being observant is key to heading them off.
Sadly, not everyone believes that depression is real.
Mental illnesses still have a long way to go to be accepted as a health problem.
Therefore, encouraging them to get help or even just to talk is huge.
Unfortunately, depression is not the only reason people commit suicide.
They could be feeling overwhelmed and not want to cope anymore.
They could be in trouble financially or in a toxic workplace and feel there is no way out.
These people who are overwhelmed with life issues, they too can be helped.
Others who make a spur-of-the-moment decision may not.
They could have had a fight with a loved one and in a fit of rage, taken themselves out as punishment.
They might, like one of my cousins, want to avoid prosecution for crimes they have committed.
They remove themselves from life so that other people have to clean up the mess they made.
My husband’s brother was a soldier. We suspect he had PTSD as he had seen active service and was not the same person when he came back.
He couldn’t receive help when he got out because there was a waiting list for Army-allowed counsellors.
Servicemen were limited to who they could seek help from. So like many others, he self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. Then, he cleaned up his act, got a job he liked, got engaged to a lovely lady and when things looked good finally, he killed himself.
My husband was beside himself and couldn’t believe it.
I have come to suspect that he didn’t feel worthy but that is only a guess.
Many of his fellow soldiers from that particular conflict have also taken their own lives.
Now with better access to counselling and better debriefing, many lives could be saved.
We should demand better care for our armed service men and women as they deserve it. The things they see and experience in war zones we cannot comprehend.
We cannot expect people to cope.
As an example, as many as 30% who went to Somalia are no longer with us and who knows how many struggle with PTSD.
There are so many families dealing with grief.
It took my husband many years to deal with the death of his baby brother.
Some women with severe post-natal depression are susceptible to suicide. They feel unable to cope or not good enough to be a parent. So they remove themselves from life.
Not all women with post-natal depression are diagnosed.
They may have little or no assistance with their children. They may not even know help is available.
They are not necessarily first-time mothers.
I heard many stories from women in workshops for post-natal women.
I remember being the mother of 2 under 2 and thinking, that if I just drove into a rock wall it would all be over.
Post-natal depression affects women differently and to varying degrees.
Even this week, while I have been writing this, another well-known face has taken his own life. The media won’t talk about it as such. It is like there is a conspiracy of silence around suicide.
It makes people feel uncomfortable. Well, it damn well should make you feel uncomfortable.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Now, there is yet another family devastated by the loss of a father, brother, and husband. Another family feels guilty for “allowing” it to happen. Another person who DID NOT ASK FOR HELP!
This is another person who hid how he felt and his inner life did not match his outer life.
It is that inner life that needs to be healthy.
Can we save everyone?
In my experience, no. Those who do it on impulse, without any warning signs are going to succeed.
For those of you considering suicide as an option do something for me, please?
Every day before you get out of bed count your blessings.
They don’t have to be big.
It can be the sun is shining, or the smell of coffee.
Get up, put on a favourite shirt and face the day.
It will get better.
Every day is a brand new day full of opportunities and most importantly, a chance to get help, to feel better about yourself. Don’t you want to find that out?