Suicide is a difficult topic to write about. Especially when it’s my first blog post. I have read blogs for years on the topics of hope and healing. I have seen the statistics over and over again: suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. (2nd leading for those 10-24 years of age); the rate of suicide in men is 3 times that of women; suicide and suicide attempts carry a societal cost of around $93.5 billion. All of these are hard facts. Numbers. Data collected over years and years. But what does it mean? What are the implications? What do we do with this? Like I said in the first sentence, suicide is difficult to write about in a way that isn’t simple facts and figures. It’s even more difficult to talk about in a way that is honest and willing to be personal. The topic is deeply personal and risky and vulnerable. I don’t always do risky and vulnerable well. I would rather just crack a joke to lighten the mood or relieve the tension and move along. But is that the way to make sure the people I love are receiving the love I have to give? More than likely not.
When talking with people about why we don’t talk about suicide with those we love, there are certain questions that often pop up. “What if I make them uncomfortable?” Here is the reality I remind myself. If they are at risk of taking their own life, they are already uncomfortable. Comfort isn’t an option for them. When we open the conversation, we allow others to be seen and heard. We have an opportunity to offer hope of restoration and redemption. Here’s the secret: the other person hides their ever-present discomfort for your benefit, not theirs. No one wants to feel like they are a bother to others. It’s the very reason we often answer the question “how are you” the same way no matter how we are actually doing. If we want to know the answer to the question, we must be specific. “How are treatments going?” “How are the kids doing in school?” “How is graduate school coming along?” We are willing to be specific about things that matter. This has to matter. I want to be a person who is willing to be bold in broken and dark places.
So, how do we begin that conversation? Set aside intentional time to talk to that person about what is going on in their life. Get a cup of coffee or invite them over for dinner. Ask them how life is going and then open the door for elaboration. We need to ask our friends about how they are coping with the difficulties in life. It doesn’t have to be asking about whether or not they have suicidal thoughts. Often just believing that they have a person who is willing to listen and cares enough to want to know can be a catalyst to help.
See, the thing about statistics is that they can change. Suicide has been on steady incline for the last 50 years, but it doesn’t have to continue. The numbers represent people’s actions, but it can also be an indicator to inaction, as well. So, when you don’t know how to talk about it or support someone in a life-or-death situation, find support for yourself while you support them. We don’t expect our friends and family to do it alone, and we shouldn’t expect it from ourselves, either.
There will be a live Roundtable discussion on this topic on our Facebook page at 1pm on September 9th. It, as well as all our other Roundtable discussions, will be led by Kelsey Bryant. If you are unable to attend it live, the video will be on the page to be viewed at your convenience.
Lifelines Counseling Services: (251)602-0909
National Suicide Hotline: (800)273-8255
The Trevor Project: (866)488-7386
Trans Lifeline: (877)565-8860
Crisis Text Line: Text TWLOHA to 741741
-BethAnn Mills, Intern