As a young mother, I remember the impact the suicide of a local health professional had on me. I was shocked, confused, shaken, and slightly afraid for some indefinable reason. My daughter was less than a year old and with my mother when I heard the news. I immediately went to get my daughter, again, for some reason I can’t describe. All I wanted to do at that moment was hold her and protect her.
Suicide is one of those topics people whisper about and speculate on, but really don’t know what to think or how to respond. The recent suicide deaths of two celebrities bring suicide, and mental health, into the news and opens the topic for discussion.
Here are some things we can learn:
Even the Rich and Famous Have Problems
Often, we have the idea that wealth and acclaim lead to the perfect life. If anything, fame and fortune probably create more problems than they solve. People who have experienced success often can’t handle it when their popularity begins to wane or when they can no longer maintain the public persona they created. They feel like a failure and can’t accept the natural ebb and flow of notability. This is true not only of celebrities, but also everyday people.
People Have Wounds We Can’t See
While prominent suicides bring the topic to light, we often don’t realize that those we encounter every day are struggling with difficult situations or mental health issues and contemplating suicide. On the other hand, there are those around us who have lost someone to suicide and have been dealing with the emotions and grief of that loss for years. While perhaps not as prevalent as it used to be, the myths and stigma surrounding suicide prevent people from reaching out to suicide survivors (the families and friends of suicide victims) and cause survivors to bury this part of their history.
Depression is an Under-reported and Under-treated Illness
Years ago, people, even health professionals, didn’t fully understand depression and recognize it as a form of mental illness. Often, all types of mental illness were labeled “crazy” and under-reported and under-treated. That perception still remains for many people. But depression is real, pervasive, and not something people can shake themselves out of. Yet often, those experiencing depression do not seek help and try to self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, and other things that merely mask or even enhance their problems.
Depression and Satan Speak Lies
Depression is like a swirling vortex that pulls you downward. Once you are in it, it’s hard to climb out without someone throwing you a lifeline. Depression is fluent in lies, as is Satan, the father of all lies. They whisper “you’re a failure,” “no one cares,” “people will be better off without you,” “there’s no hope,” and other falsehoods. They also cause you to view problems as unsolvable and insurmountable and your current situation as hopeless. Those who choose to die by suicide buy into these lies. But if you ask suicide survivors (those who remain) none say they are “better off” following the loss of a loved one to suicide.
How to move forward following suicide:
- Be aware – A suicide death heightens awareness. Familiarize yourself with suicidal tendencies and behaviors (3 Steps to Take if You Think Someone May Be Suicidal) and be mindful of them with those you encounter.
- Reach out – Knowing what to say and how to respond to those who are grieving a suicide death is hard for most people. But remember, those who have experienced a loss, of any kind, need to know people care and are concerned.
- Listen – Give those who are potentially suicidal, as well as those who are grieving a suicide loss, the opportunity to talk. Don’t try to downplay their feelings or judge. Just listen and express concern.
- Offer support – Depression and grief can be isolating. Offer to make appointments with healthcare professionals, provide transportation, childcare, or meals. Often, we don’t want to involve ourselves in the problems or emotions of others, but even a small act of concern and support could offer hope or save a life.
“Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.” (Philippians 2:4 NET)