Yet, there is so much stigma, so many misconceptions and unhelpful attitudes around suicide. What if we likened it to cancer? Like cancer, suicide does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, or socioeconomic status. There is no stereotypical face of it and no one single path that leads to it. For some, it is a sudden, intense phenomenon that takes life rapidly and with little warning. For others, it is a war waged internally for years. And, like with cancer, what if we did not blame the sufferers, even if their actions seemingly contributed in part to the outcome, and instead understood that they, tragically, lost their battle?
Suicide is not a selfish or cowardly act. It is not due to a lack of discipline or religion or to a weakness of character. It is caused by a number of factors, a perfect storm of biological vulnerabilities and environmental elements that results in circumstances that are beyond someone’s ability to cope. In that final moment, there is no alternative, no way out. Like when a heart no longer has the capacity to keep beating during a heart attack, they die of a brain attack.
“Suicide is just a cry for attention or a cry for help,” you may say. Maybe it is sometimes. That brave soul is fighting for their life! LISTEN TO THAT CRY! Help if you can.
I urge you to be kind to others. You can not tell by looking at someone if they are struggling with suicidal thoughts or who they’ve lost to suicide. Arm yourself with education and compassion. Suicide is a public health issue and affects us all.
Know that it’s ok to ask someone about suicide. There’s a common misconception that asking someone if they have suicidal thoughts will implant the idea. That’s a myth. If someone is not suicidal, asking about it will NOT cause them to be. And, if they are, asking about it may just save their life. By asking and listening without judgment and without anger, you’ll let them know that the door is open to talk about it, that you are a safe place for them, and that you will help them take the first steps toward preventing it.
Be in Peace,