TRIGGER WARNING: Some readers may find the subject matter unsettling.
To be honest, I feel a little nervous heading into composing this post for a variety of reasons. The thing is that it’s sort of unavoidable when discussing mental illness for the simple fact that if such ailments aren’t treated in the correct manner then this outcome becomes more and more likely. Even typing the word haunts me.
Yes, suicide is the end destination of many an untreated or insufficiently treated sufferer of mental health issues. It’s something we’ve perhaps all thought about in our lives, even if only passively, when things have got especially tough.
It hurts me to say that suicide has hit far too close to home in my short yet colourful life. Without going into great detail, someone very close to me took their own life in 1998 when they were only nineteen years of age. I was just fourteen by this point. It sent shockwaves through my entire family, shockwaves that still resonate to the day. Over twenty years later, I still feel the pain and grief of losing this absolutely wonderful person, a vibrant character whom everyone seemed to love within moments of meeting them.
Nobody knows why this tragedy occurred. To be honest, knowing isn’t all too important to me as it won’t bring them back. The one good thing to have come out of the tragedy was that I made a promise back then: no matter how hard life becomes, I’ll endeavour to find a way through it and never take ‘the easy way out’.
There’s a term which causes me to raise my eyebrows. The easy way out.
Right here I’d like to pose a question: why do we use that term? What makes us qualified to think and believe that suicide is or ever has been the easy way out? Even worse, I’ve heard people say ‘the coward’s way out’. I’ve drastically reduced my use of profanity on this blog, so I apologise for what I’m about to say: who the fuck thinks saying something so vile is even slightly appropriate?
When it comes to suicide, we can deduce that stigma still exists big time. The very idea of one taking one’s own life seems preposterous to many. It’s the greatest gift we have and we all have a duty to make the best of it that we can. Well, uhm, no actually. Some people don’t feel life is the greatest gift of all. Some actually feel it’s a cauldron of intense pressure and expectation that they simply don’t have the mental strength or capacity to deal with. Life is damned hard and anybody who says otherwise is either lying or wants for literally nothing.
Not everybody is built with a ‘keep calm and carry on’ mentality and it’s completely remiss of anyone to expect that that’s the way folk should be. ‘Keep calm and carry on’ is another one of my most hated platitudes. A stiff upper lip attitude isn’t what gets things done. It’s a way of repressing bad feelings and emotions whilst pretending to the outside world that all is okay. I will never agree to that being the correct way of living. Optimism can be very dangerous. I allude to a post I composed a while back entitled Smile, which adequately communicates my feelings as regards eternal optimism and carrying on regardless.
It hurts that anyone’s life could reach such a low point that they genuinely feel ending it is the only way they can escape the misery and pain. It’s such a sad thought. I’ve had umpteen thoughts about how much easier it would be if I brought everything to a definite end when things got particularly tough. Thoughts are all they’ve ever been. I’ve never attempted suicide. I know I never would. I couldn’t. I’m one of the lucky ones in that regard, depending on your mindset on the subject.
Suicide is the reason that mental health awareness needs to be taken very seriously by all and why the shame surrounding mental illnesses has to be stamped out completely and permanently. The more of us that are willing to lend a helping hand to those who are struggling the more people we’ll save from voluntarily wandering to the end of life’s cul-de-sac, so to speak. We can direct them back to the main road, show them the way to go, and teach them how to keep going in the right direction.
People seem unaware of how much power they possess. They have the power to ruin the life of another with just a handful of words. They have the power to heal a wounded person with just a handful of words too. The choice is theirs in that regard. There are some very toxic and bitter people out there who will intentionally go out of their way to hurt others, whether physically or emotionally. These are the ones who need to be educated more than most. That doesn’t mean those with oodles of empathy don’t need to be educated as well though. How many times have you tried to help a person only to inadvertently make things worse? Sometimes, it requires a softly-softly approach and it’s good to have an idea of what approach to apply, when to apply it, and who to apply it to.
There is nothing at all positive about a person who feels taking their own life is an appropriate course of action. Sometimes, it can’t be helped. There are people out there who are good at hiding their inner demons and people wouldn’t have even realised anything was wrong until they see the suicide note of their loved one. In the main, however, there’ll be tell-tale signs we can pick up on: changes in attitude; seemingly throwaway remarks; uncharacteristic silences; a lack of enjoyment in things they used to love; etc. You know what your loved one is like and you know when they’re acting out of character. Don’t be afraid to raise the subject with them. It could be what saves their life if things are bad enough for them.
When it comes to suicidality, we have an obligation to assure them that it is not the easy way out at all. We have to convince them that living life is easier. Remind them of all they’ll leave behind, the opportunities and dreams they’ll be unable to fulfil because they won’t be here to make them happen. Whatever it takes to convince a person their life is worth living we have to try when and where possible. Contrary to popular belief, a person who talks about suicide isn’t necessarily ‘just looking for attention’. A person who wants to commit suicide won’t ‘just go and do it’. And this is the whole reason why the stigma needs stamping out yesterday!
Suicide is the result of many a mental illness and is the entire reason why mental health needs to be looked after every bit as seriously as physical health.
Here are a few links to suicide charities whose websites offer advice and are taking your kind donations to help fight suicide: