Sunday
Jun102018

SUICIDE AND THE IMPACT ON THOSE LEFT BEHIND

Suicide continues to increase in the United States. I have no doubt that this is directly related to increased stress in the lives of those who have died by suicide. I also believe that a major factor in their decision to harm themselves was feeling alone and isolated. So, they felt disconnected from others and yet afterwards a lot of people are left distraught as they grieve for the who is tragically gone. So, how come they didn't feel this? 

Well, sadly, people often withhold their caring and affection for a variety of reasons: it is too painful to care for someone who is talking about hurting themselves; not wanting to enable or unwittingly encourage negative behaviors [make the person more suicidal]; cope with their sadness about the person's hopelessness by giving advice over and over which only serves to make the person feel more isolated and lonely.

What can we do to help those who we love and who are suicidal or at risk to become suicidal so they are more likely to feel our caring about them? 

  • We can listen! Listening is an effective way to demonstrate caring for someone...especially if we are able to listen without having our own reactions. When we listen without reacting we are being present with that person and they can feel that. Their own feelings and thoughts will be clearer and if we need to say anything to them our brains will provide this for us [really!].
  • We can tell them that we are worried about their safety and remove any lethal means of suicide that are available to the person.
  • We can encourage them to talk with someone about how they are feeling and even suggest specific people that the person can call, as this is one way to help a person who is feeling depressed and it is estimated that 90% of people who attempt suicide are depressed.
  • We can call 911 if we feel that the person is still at risk to attempt suicide and tell the 911 dispatcher that we have a mental health emergency and give details of what is happening. 
  • We could also offer to take them to the emergency department of a hospital so that they can be evaluated and have a chance to talk about how they are feeling. 

Taking the steps outlined above can help us to maintain a feeling of connection to the person who we are worried about. This can help us to feel that we are with them, as we are encouraging and supporting them. This way of supporting others can help the person we are worried about to feel connected to us and cared for even if we have to call 911.  

If the person that we are worried about [and likely love] dies by suicide, we are less likely to feel as overwhelmed and less likely to have a prolonged recovery period. I did not call this a prolonged period of grief because I believe that grief gets blamed for stressful emotional states that are not part of grief. These emotional states can actually delay the opportunity to grieve for the lost loved one and for us to realize that we they are part of us and we can then give ourselves permission to participate in our own lives again. 

 

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