Let’s talk about suicide.
Let’s agree that the trouble with suicide is that no one knows what to say. No one knows how to react. So they smile and wave and try to seem distracted... but they never ever say the word. The survivors, those left behind, it seems, are often left to survive on their own.
Let’s remember that for survivors, there is a lot of pain, grief, guilt and confusion. Most often, those who are left have questions that most often they can’t find answers to. What if I had answered the phone? Would the sound of my voice have changed his/her mind? Would he/she have done it at a later date, anyway? This is what’s called survivor’s guilt!
There are a lot of emotions that come after a suicide. But one thought that should not be among these valid emotions is that suicide is selfish. Suicide is a lot of things, but selfish is not one of them.
Suicide is a decision made out of desperation, hopelessness, isolation and loneliness. The black hole that is clinical depression is all-consuming and overwhelming. Feeling like a burden to loved ones, feeling like there is no way out, feeling trapped and feeling isolated are all common among people who suffer from depression.
People who say that suicide is selfish always reference the survivors. It’s selfish to leave children, spouses and other family members behind, so they say. They’re not thinking about the survivors, they continue. What they don’t know is that those very loved ones are the reason many people hang on for just one more day. They do think about the survivors, probably up until the very last moment in many cases. But the soul-crushing depression that envelops them leaves them feeling like there is no alternative. Like the only way to get out is to end their life. And that is a devastating thought to go through.
Until you’ve experienced that level of depression, until you’ve lost your soul to a sea of emptiness and darkness... you should not make those judgments. You might not understand it, and you are certainly entitled to your own feelings, but making those judgments and spreading that kind of negativity won’t help anyone. In fact, it will only hurt others.
As our country grapples with increasing suicide rates as shown in the BBC, we are all left feeling helpless and confused. The truth is that many, many people face struggles each and every day. Some will commit suicide. Some will attempt. And some will hang on for dear life. Most won’t be able to ask for the help that they need to overcome their mental illness.
But you can help.
Know the warning signs for suicide. 50-75% of people who attempt suicide will tell someone about their intention. Listen when people talk. Make eye contact. Convey empathy. And for the love of people everywhere, put down that ridiculous not-so-SmartPhone and be human.
Text/Call/Visit friends struggling with depression. Even if they don’t answer the phone or come to the door, make an effort to let them know that you are there. Friendship isn’t about saving lost souls; friendship is about listening and being present.
Text/Call/Visit survivors of suicide. Practice using the words “suicide” and “depression” so that you pronounce them as easily as “corrupt” and “politician.” Listen as they tell their stories. Hold their hands. Be kind with their hearts. And hug them every single time.
Encourage help. Learn about the resources in your area so that you can help friends and loved ones in need. Don’t be afraid to text/call/visit them over and over again. Don’t be afraid to show you care. One human connection can make a big difference in the life of someone struggling with mental illness and/or survivor’s guilt.
One million people commit suicide worldwide each year. Many more attempt suicide. It’s time to raise awareness, increase empathy and kindness, and bring those numbers down.
Let's keep talking about suicide and depression.
Need help? In Kenya., call this suicide hotline for Befrienders Kenya at +254722178177