September is Suicide Prevention Month. I always dread this month. I never feel adequate to talk about suicide and grieving. I believe a lot of you reading this news article may have felt like this as well. The topic of suicide has such a stigma attached to it in our culture that we very rarely talk about it with our loved ones, our families, and rarely with our friends. Why is it such a hard conversation to have?
One of the reasons it is so hard to have this deep conversation is that we believe in some myths about suicide. Many people believe that if we talk about suicide or talk to our suicidal friends or family members, we will somehow encourage them to commit suicide, but the opposite is true! It is a hard topic. It is an uncomfortable conversation to have. It takes courage to ask the people we love if they are okay and push them to talk to us about their pain and suffering. When we talk about suicide with our kids, our family members, and our friends we take the stigma out of the topic. The topic of suicide then becomes normalized in our conversations, and when and if someone we love struggles with suicidal thoughts and plans, we have already bridged that awkward gap of uncomfortableness and created a safe space for someone to talk to us about their suicidal struggles.
Another myth is the belief that if we talk about suicide, we might plant the idea that suicide is okay. This may stop us from having those life-saving conversations with our loved ones. We as human beings have a natural resiliency to live. Even when we are so depressed and broken by grief, confused or feeling lost, or just don’t know how to take those next breaths we still have an internal resiliency to live and fight for life. It is the way we are designed, and we will find our way through our struggles. By having open honest conversations about suicide and normalizing that life is hard and sometimes we all struggle, feel lost, or lose who we are in the suffering we can minimize thoughts about suicide. When we face our pain and suffering the ingrained resilience has a chance to help us find our way through the grief of our losses.
A third myth is that we need to suffer alone. When we are emotionally struggling, we tend to isolate ourselves. It is in isolation that suicidal thoughts flourish. We think that we can’t tell anyone that we are struggling with these thoughts because of what people will think. The silence is deafening for someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. We need to talk about these thoughts so that we break the thought cycles that hold the person captive.
Having tough love conversations with the people we love can help bring a person into a relationship, break the isolation that feeling suicidal can bring, and help the person know where a safe space is to have a very difficult conversation. Don’t wait until someone is struggling and withdrawing before talking to them. Be proactive about talking with your friends and family about suicidal thoughts. It may be hard in the beginning, but it might save a life!
If you would like more information or help with how to talk to your family and friends about suicidal –thoughts or plans I would love to chat with you.
Written by Kimberly Talmey, RPC-C