By Jennifer Seigworth
Statistical data shows that certain times of the year there are increases in suicide rates. Those left in the wake of a sudden death to suicide want to know why? I wish the answer was easy, but there are many factors that play a role.
So many questions are left on the hearts of the family after a suicide. One of saddest things I have ever heard as a counselor was that the loved ones feel guilt in grieving their loss because they feel shame for their loved one and anger at them for taking their own life. There are moral and religious beliefs that are fiercely violated by suicide, and loved ones are left to bear the shame of this on top of the pain of their loss and other chaos that is left behind.
So, are we to believe that those that commit suicide are simply selfish and hurtful people who just want to leave a mess for others to deal with? The truth of the matter is what drives a person to commit suicide is illness. It is extended physical or emotional pain and suffering. It is despair. It is loneliness, fear of loss, to the point of hopelessness. And most often…it is very well hidden to avoid being a burden.
Have you ever been there? In that place in your mind where you felt like you might not ever get out of the situation you were in? Things would never get better? You could simply not continue to live like you were living? Hope says, “What are you going to do to change it?” Hope says, “This too shall pass.” Hope says, “Tomorrow is a new day.” Sometimes, mental illness and prolonged pain and suffering rob people of that tiny little seed of hope that gives them the light at the end of the tunnel, and so much more.
A difficult concept for some to understand about the dark, crushing illness that drives people to commit suicide is that it is so physically and mentally draining that they feel that they can no longer fight it. They feel that they are not worth fighting for, and they are such a burden to others. So much so that taking their own life is the most merciful act they can perform to protect their loved ones from their mess of a life. It is not logical because it is illness talking.
They do not see the truth for what it is. They cannot see that taking their life will actually rip a hole in the lives of their family members and leave them each with a scar- especially the one who has to find them in the place they decide to take their life. Unfortunately, their mind is too ill at the time to see that they are making a drastic, permanent decision for a temporary situation.
Some common risk factors for suicide:
• mental illness, health conditions, chronic pain
• substance use
• loss or fear of loss(relationship, job, home, automobile, social status, freedom, success)
• bullied, harassed, shamed
• social isolation
As you see, the risk factors are alarmingly common to many people. As I mentioned earlier, the risk of suicide in a loved one is often very well hidden, because they do not want to burden others with their thoughts, and they are ashamed of the thoughts as well. So, we must make sure that we are not afraid to ask questions and listen.
We need to check in with our friends and family. Ask how they are feeling. Ask about future plans. See the type of outlook they have. Listen for signs of hope. Also, if you do feel there are high risk factors, or a loved one expresses thoughts of suicide, ask questions about their means to follow through with it. This will allow you to find out if they have access to a weapon and assist paramedics if they do follow through before help arrives. Offer to get them immediate help. If they are unwilling, and you feel they are in immediate danger or endangering someone else, call 911.
And if you are contemplating suicide, please, hear me. You are not alone. You are loved. You are not a burden. Ask for help. This weight can be lifted. I promise you this. Here is a number to call for help 1-800-273-8255. There is always hope.