This is a very sensitive topic, yet I think it’s really important to discuss, and even more important, to take the needed action.
I’m a part of a mental health community striving to help people help themselves, and I believe we have failed miserably when it comes to treating suicide.
Suicide has such a strong stigma that we shame people for having suicidal thoughts. We even label suicidal people as bad, flawed, mentally unfit, and unstable, and when someone says they are suicidal or attempts to kill themselves, we lock them up.
How do we possibly expect someone who is suicidal to reach out for help, when they know they will be labeled, judged, and shunned?
Let me start off by saying, I don’t have all the answers. I just know for sure that the way we are treating suicide isn’t working and is harmful.
I’m writing this so we can begin the discussion, so we can have dialogue and begin treating people and not standing in judgment.
I have had thoughts of suicide in my life—what is referred to as an ideation. What has worked for me is the following: first, I ask myself, “Do I really want to die, or do I not want to feel the way I do?” Additionally, I tell the suicide that I’m going to put it in my back pocket and see what other options are out there for me to explore and create hope. I try to stay away from the shame-based belief that somehow, something must be inherently wrong with me.
Last week, a young man came to me and told me he wanted to kill himself. Firstly, I thanked him for trusting me and did my best to make sure he didn’t feel judged, and then I asked him if he wanted to die, or if he had no hope that he could feel better. Secondly, I said to him, “I’m not going to steal suicide as an option, yet let’s put that in our back pocket and see what other tools are available.”
He thanked me and said to me, “You mean I’m not bad, and there isn’t something wrong with me?” I asked him for permission and gave him a hug, and I said, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, you are very good, the opposite of bad, and I’m grateful for you. He walked out of my office with a lighter step, feeling heard and seen.
This week, let’s start having a discussion of how we can treat others—especially those who are suffering—with dignity, respect, kindness, empathy, and love.
Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love
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