For too long the subject of suicide has been taboo in our society. This may have been fuelled by the early religious belief that a person who died by suicide could not be buried in consecrated ground. Rather than face that shame, families would hide a suicide.
Although the topic does seem to be talked about more easily today, there is still hesitancy and reluctance around the it.
It maybe that we are afraid to upset someone who is thinking about suicide, or it could be we believe the old myth that if we talk about it we could be giving them the idea!
I get too that people are careful not to upset those who’ve experienced a loss to suicide, but unless we talk more about it, then it will keep its taboo status and we will continue to lose loved ones to this scourge of our society.
Maybe we have a friend or loved one we think are not doing well mentally, yet we are still hesitant to actually ask straight up if they are okay or even if they are thinking about suicide.
Saying something like “Please don’t tell me you’re thinking about suicide!” only tells that person that you don’t want to know thats what they are contemplating . The question needs to be asked directly, so you can expect a more informative answer, and then take the appropriate action.
It can be a difficult thing to ask, in fact it can be downright uncomfortable, however it is far better to feel like a fool for a little while, than have to front up to a funeral in the near future.
Asking “The Question” shows that you care about them, and you may be able to help them get the assistance they need. Perhaps just to have someone there to listen to them might be all they need, or it may mean encouraging that person to call Lifeline, Suicide Help or similar organisation. Somewhere there are trained counsellors who can help or direct them to the appropriate resource. Reassuring someone you love by being bold enough to ask about their mental state may be all it takes to keep them with us. It may be just what they needed to have them seek help, or to feel worthwhile again.
Years ago, when I was doing my nursing training, we were given a brief talk on suicidal people. The outcome was that those who talk about suicide don’t actually follow through. When Kelly told me she was going to do it – to my everlasting regret – I didn’t believe her. So instead of planning her twenty first birthday party, we had to organise her funeral.
For me, in the early months after Kelly died, even though I wanted to talk about her, I would cry and get upset. But that was just a normal reaction to losing my beautiful girl in tragic circumstances. A perfectly normal reaction. I wasn’t the only one who felt that need , the other members of my family and her friends did too.
Now we have ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ and ‘R U Okay Day’, which are a great way to raise awareness, however we need to be vigilant all year round – not just on specified days.
The only way to reduce the incidence of suicide is to talk about it more, to become more at ease with the topic. Maybe then we will see the statistics go down instead of continually rising as they have been doing.