28 Mar My Thoughts on Suicide
I’ve lost three friends in the past two weeks to suicide. I didn’t see it coming. For one, his family had been helping him for a few months after a failed attempt. The other two were not expected by me.
First, I’m no expert on suicide. I’ve lost friends to suicide when I had no idea what they were going through or struggling with. I’ve even thought about it a few times. I had a friend recently tell me they were dealing with a close friend that was contemplating suicide, so I thought to myself “what would I want from others if I were contemplating suicide?” Here’s what I believe.
It is their reality– I am not living their life. Something that is simple for me may be enormous for them. I am not in their head. I have not had their life experiences that have brought them to that point. Honestly, if I had, I may be thinking the same thing. They may be struggling with something that they believe nobody understands. There is nothing wrong with that.
Whatever they are going through, it is real for them.
Holding space and getting communication– There is a powerful tool that I use with my clients called holding space. In essence, it is creating a safe space where the other person can say anything and everything they want, without fear of judgment. It is feeling with them. It is loving them through all of their thoughts and emotions, whatever they are.
I don’t have to agree with their opinions or what they say. I don’t have to share my point of view (unless they ask). I just get to listen. I get to empathize with how tough their situation is. They need to be heard. Period.
Thoughts of suicide are very emotional. Emotions can block out reasoning. There is no value in trying to reason with them. The value is in allowing them to work through their emotions.
Circumstances do not create our reality. Our thoughts about our circumstances do. When we can gain insight into what the person is thinking, we can better understand why they are in the place they are regarding suicide.
There may be lack of hope for the future based on their experiences in the past– I recently had a friend commit suicide because he went through a difficult divorce and his financial burdens were overwhelming to him. I’ve been through two divorces, but not his divorce. I’ve had my own difficulties, but not his difficulties. Whatever we think about another person’s experience, we are wrong. While the experience of divorce may be similar, our individual stories and meaning that we give it are completely different.
There is likely a lack of connection– Many people that are suicidal feel isolated. The feel alone and misunderstood. Just being there for them can make all the difference.
There is interesting data on addiction, stating that the root of addiction is lack of connection. Johann Hari gives some interesting insights in his TED talk that you can find at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY9DcIMGxMs. Addiction is another way of numbing or checking out, though most times, not as extreme as suicide.
Many times, thoughts of suicide arise after serious loss, or lack of connection such as death, divorce, etc. While we may not be able to completely replace that loss, being there for people when they are struggling with anxiety, depression or thoughts of suicide may lighten their load just enough to keep them here until they can do it on their own with their new connections.
Here are some suicide statistics for 2016 by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
- The annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 13.42 per 100,000 individuals.
- Men die by suicide 3.53x more often than women.
- On average, there are 123 suicides per day.
- White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.
- The rate of suicide is highest in middle age — white men in particular.
These rates are alarming to me, and hit particularly close to home for me. All three of my friends who committed suicide are middle age white men. So am I. It becomes extremely sobering knowing that 70% of U.S. suicides are by people exactly like me.
There is Help
Unfortunately, those that are in a place of contemplating suicide are not looking for help most of the time. There is a high tendency to isolate, to focus on their situation and pain. If you notice family or friends with a new pattern of isolation, reach out to them. Listen to them. Help them get reconnected. Help them get help when they’re ready.
A famous author and friend of mine, Richard Paul Evans, recently started an organization called Tribe of Kyngs. The charter of the organization is to save men’s lives. One aspect of this is to help men stand in their power and be better men, husbands and fathers. Another aspect is to create a community where men can have connection and not feel isolated. Not surprisingly, there have been men that have confidentially and publicly stated how this tribe has literaly saved their lives from their thoughts or intents of suicide. You can learn about Tribe of Kyngs at https://tribeofkyngs.com.
Another friend of mine, Levi Ernest, has created an organization specifically with the goal to end teen suicide in Utah called #everyteenseen. He is one of the most passionate people I know about this topic because he’s been there. You can learn about his passion on his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/everyteenseen/
If you are dealing with thoughts of suicide, please see a professional or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1–800–273–8255 or at their website at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
If you’ve not been affected by suicide, it’s only a matter of time. If you’ve been there, find an opportunity to reach out. We’re all doing our best, and sometimes, we also need a helping hand or listening ear.