Most of us have created illusions at some stage, perhaps only fleetingly, but an illusion no less.  For example when someone asks you “How are you?”  despite feeling tired, sad, angry or whatever  we usually reply “Okay thanks.” or words to that effect.  If the person asking is particularly observant then they may delve a little deeper, but most just accept the illusion you’ve created by pretending that your world is fine.

Or maybe it is the illusion that you are doing well financially, when in reality all the credit cards are maxed, the rent is due and you don’t have enough cash to put petrol in the car.  Despite all this, you dress up smartly, put on a smile and pretend that you are doing well, even going as far as buying the coffee or whatever, just to gild the illusion.

We often find it difficult to admit that all is not well in our world, justifying to ourselves that no-one really wants to know how you feel anyway.

Then there are perceptions we make based on what we see — the smart clothes, jewellery or latest model car — even owning a business can have people thinking we are doing well which may also  be an illusion.

So we see what we want to see, and sometimes it is a bit scary asking someone to clarify that they are really okay.  It might make us feel uncomfortable if we ask more questions.  I think back to the week before  Kelly died, when she came home to live with us again.  We saw what we wanted to see — that she was back to her old self, that she seemed settled and we were happy that we had our girl back again.  There were some adjustments in thinking, but it was good to have all that crazy stuff done with, great to have a normal conversation with her again.

As we discovered, to our everlasting regret, it was just an illusion on her part.  We saw what we wanted to see, when she was only calm because she had made her big decision to end her life and was with us to say goodbye without actually verbalising it.

So as we go about our daily lives, and we see a friend who doesn’t quite fit the ‘okay’ response to our question of how are you, perhaps we could delve a little deeper.  Ask the awkward question – “Are you really okay — you don’t really seem that way?”   We may find more than we wanted, but we may also save a life by showing that we really do care.

Yes, asking someone if they are thinking of suicide or ending their life can be rather uncomfortable, but I would rather feel a little uncomfortable today, than have to attend a funeral next week.




Why is talking about suicide so uncomfortable ?

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.