what they say about what to say about suicide

How do you like my latest trigger warning?

On a serious note – tw for suicide stuff.

Remember the local bipolar guy who attempted suicide? He’s still in an induced coma and has run out of medical aid. Apparently he took a month and a half’s supply of whatever meds he’s on, washed down with alcohol. They suspect there’s brain damage from it all. Fucking awful for his loved ones.

What could have been said?

Everybody tries to prevent suicide and frequently with slogans like
Hang in there.
Keep on keepin’ on.
It’s gonna be ok.
I’ve said ‘em all myself and heard them said to me too. Maybe they’re not working, maybe we have to rethink the strategy. There’s no stick on the planet that’ll work on someone whose deepest and most desperate desire is to end it all as soon as possible. The carrots don’t seem to be effective either.

“Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”
Not True. You don’t give a suicidal person ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do. SAVE.org

I warbled on about busting the taboo and talking about suicide in my last post about the subject, then I wondered what people are supposed to say to a suicidal person. To be brutally honest, what I want to hear when I am that far down is let me take care of stuff for a while. For me, the urge is about not being able to cope. The answer is not that well loved oh pull yourself together and dig the garden/run 50km/accept Jesus/get a hobby concept. That’s just even more depressing. I reckon I’d maybe feel calmer and more likely to hang on if someone arrived, tidied up and made things welcoming, made tea – simple stuff. Obviously that’s assuming there’s time and no window ledge involved – and assuming it’s me you’re trying to rescue. So in general,  I don’t have a clue wtf anyone should say.

I’m hoping people will comment about their own experiences and what might work/not work for them. There are far too many variables for anything to be remotely accurate overall.

Dr Google to the rescue (or the research, at least), to see what sort of wisdom can be gleaned from a fairly common consensus on the matter.

ASK: Are you having thoughts of suicide?
Myth: Talking about it may give someone the idea. People already have the idea; suicide is constantly in the news media. If you ask a despairing person this question you are doing a good thing for them: you are showing him that you care about him, that you take him seriously, and that you are willing to let him share his pain with you. You are giving him further opportunity to discharge pent up and painful feelings. If the person is having thoughts of suicide, find out how far along his ideation has progressed.

The majority of sites I visited advocated asking and talking about it. It makes sense to me – I’d like to add though (and again, this only applies to me, I’m not speaking for anyone else) that I wish suicide had been an open topic of discussion way, way before I ever tried it. I don’t know whether that would have stopped me, but I have a suspicion or hope or something, that it would have given me a bit more clarity. Eh I dunno, just some thoughts.

Sometimes it helps to let your friend know why you are asking. For instance, you might say, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been talking a lot about wanting to be dead. Have you been having thoughts about trying to kill yourself?”
Teen Health

My psychiatrist asks, “and how’s the suicidality,” every now and then. I like the fact that she does and I’m honest with her.

Comfort the person with words of encouragement. Use common sense to offer words of support. Remember that intense emotional pain can be overwhelming, so be as gentle and caring as possible. There is no script to use in situations like these, because each person and each situation is different. Listen carefully, and offer encouraging words when appropriate.

I’ve written about the next piece of advice before too and I still think it’s essential. Preceding and following quote both from Suicide.org

Ask the person, “Are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Have you thought about how you would do it?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Do you have what you need to do it?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Have you thought about when you would do it?”

Here are those four important questions in abbreviated form:
Have what you need?
You need to know as much as possible about what is going on in the person’s mind. The more planning that someone has put into a suicide, the greater the risk. If the person has a method and a time in mind, the risk is extremely high and you cannot hesitate to call 911 and ensure that professional treatment is given.

I really like the fact that pretty much all of the info says very clearly, listen. It’s a good idea to start listening efficiently full stop – none of us ought to wait till someone is suicidal before we learn that skill. When I’m at the end of the proverbial tether, I go silent and feel panicky if I’m pushed to talk. There are times also, when problem solving really isn’t the answer. Not always, obviously, but sometimes we simply need to listen without rushing to the conclusion with a solution. Speaking for myself, there are times when I have zero respect for my problems, and for myself for being defeated by them.

If I’m struggling with something that is no struggle at all for you, it’d be good if you simply believed what I said.
I am terrified of …
I can’t cope with …
I am freaking out …
I’m so down I can barely breathe …
Those are things that, on the whole, I probably know how to deal with better than you do. I might even be doing the right stuff at the time. Doesn’t mean I want or need to be alone with it.

And I don’t want to feel any more stupid about it than I already do. I need to remember, in those situations, that I’ve faced gunfire and seen deaths and handled a whole lot that other people can’t. So I get all fucked up over simple admin or whatever – so what?

When I am shown respect as a human being, no matter what a disintegrating fuckup I think I am, it really does help. Perhaps not in any tangible way, but it does. And that’s something that hopefully we all have already, from some people in our lives. I do and it means an enormous amount to me.

There’s also plenty of good stuff out there from the other angle, like 10 things not to say to a suicidal person.

I suppose the thing is to spread the word as far as possible – try saying these things, do not say those things … its impossible to gauge their effectiveness or lack thereof though. It’s too easy to sit and judge from the outside. There’s a preconception that suicides happen due to a lack of love or attention or whatever – and that is certainly not the case. You only have to read Danielle Steele’s account of the tragic loss of her son to see that no matter how much love and support there is, it can still happen.

We need to be brutally realistic about suicide, or else all we are doing is setting ourselves up for heartache.

I have had suicidal ideations since I was very young and it’s still a default setting. After my first attempt, I swore it had given me a new lease on life and that it’d never happen again. Well that’s half a lifetime and a long way away. I still have suicidal ideations; in fact I spend most of my life wishing I wasn’t alive. It’s far from ideal, but you’d be surprised how long those ideations can be managed, before they turn into intentions. Will I have suicidal intentions again? I’m pretty sure I will. Will I go through with it? I don’t know. What would stop me? I don’t know that either. When you get that far down, you can’t even see love. Maybe just hang out with me, hand me coffee and cigarettes. No matter how much energy may eventually go into it, I firmly believe that suicidal people are bone tired people.

Erm, in case anyone feels the need to freak out about that last paragraph, don’t. Remember I promised my dog I’d be alive at least as long as her? Well she’s only two.

I want to be completely open about this stuff – maybe the muggles want/need a better understanding of minds like mine? Idk. But it’s there if it’s ever needed.

Comments are closed.