September was apparently the “official” National Suicide Prevention Month and although September is gone, the time to talk about prevention is never gone. It is always the right time to speak up and out about suicide and what we might do to prevent one more. Let’s start with this; it was never your fault.
I have not attempted to end my own life in over 40 years but having had multiple attempts – approximately 30 between age 10 and 27 – I feel qualified to speak to the issue of what NOT to say and how to help someone who sees no other option. There is no such thing as “get over it!
I am so blessed because people got a hold of me who knew how to help me when I did not even know what I needed, or wanted. I could not even articulate what I thought my problem was. I simply knew I did not want to live anymore. I am very, very blessed and lucky to still be here. God must have a plan for me because I have cheated life (beyond suicide attempts) many, many times.
I offer the following from my personal experience only, not from any kind of psychological training and/or knowledge. If you are depressed and feeling suicidal, I encourage you to seek professional help. That said, I am also open to speaking with anyone who contacts me – whether you are feeling depressed yourself, or if you love someone who has expressed suicidal ideation. It is not your fault.
What NOT to say: (all words I have heard and what drove me deeper into depression)
You need to just move on
Quit thinking about it
You need to quit feeling sorry for yourself and move on
Get over yourself
I am tired of listening to you and your whining
Why do you keep harping on the same subject? Get over it
You have so much to be grateful for, what is wrong with you?
You are so bright, so beautiful, and so talented, quit being such a cry baby
This too shall pass
Time will take care of whatever it is
You just need to find a hobby
You just need to think about somebody other than yourself
Find a job
Find another friend – I am tired of listening to you
Good Luck with that (the feelings of depression, or whatever is bothering them)
I feel sorry for you but I can’t help you
Dog their every step, follow them, sleep with them, and show them you do not trust them.
Tell them you understand (you do not although okay to share your own stories)
Boss around, or order them to do, or not do, anything
What TO say and/or do:
Listen, listen, listen – with compassion, with empathy, but not sympathy
What can I do for you? (Regardless of how many times you have said it)
What do you think will make it better? Keep asking in different ways because they may not know but if you keep asking, it may very well get to an issue.
(Asking them what they think will help rather than tell them what you think will work)
Keep listening and asking questions without judgement
Let them see your heart and feel your heart
Invite them and allow them to be a part of a solution
Looking back, it is crystal clear how many people loved me and did everything they could think of to show me and tell me – to now avail. I simply did not understand why, in spite of the outpouring of love, I did not want to live. I do know now. But most importantly I want to say, I NEVER blamed anyone else. To family, friends, and other loved ones, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.