Suicide, Empathy and Prevention

May 3, 2014
(Written for Open to Hope)

sunset Tempe Beach AZMy story seems to be like too many others – son (or daughter) died by suicide. But then I forget that as a facilitator of a survivors of suicide loss support group, that I hear stories similar to mine while most of the public do not hear these stories. Or once people know my story and my willingness to help others, they share their stories with me.

Each and every story I hear is sad. But then so are the stories of the parents or children who die too young from cancer or heart disease. Yet suicide is more of a mystery to everyone. Over the years I have learned to normalize it, somewhat, for my support group attendees and others.

I remind them that happy people do not kill themselves. Our loved ones who made that final decision to end their lives, suffered from a depression we have a hard time fathoming. The dark tunnel they were consumed in made it too hard to live. So hard that death seemed a better choice.

Empathy can make more sense out of their choice. Try, if you’re brave enough, to imagine how they felt just before they pulled the trigger, stepped off the ledge with a rope around their neck, took too many pills washed down with alcohol, plunged a syringe full of heroin into their arm.

It’s terrifying I know. I did that. I mentally placed myself where my son stood before he stepped of the edge of the attic into the pull down stairs opening with a sisal rope tied around his neck. He must have been terrified yet he felt it was the correct choice.

I’m sorry to be graphic but sometimes it helps to understand the misery and the darkness of the depression. Yet we scream “why didn’t you ask for help?” I remember clearly after Cameron’s death, similar depression that he must have experienced.

I was so depressed from his death, I didn’t think about calling my therapist to help me out of my funk. I just muddled through for a day or two and it cleared up. What if I felt that way for weeks on end? I might start devising ways to end my misery.

Or what if your body was in so much pain, that you felt like a burden to others – years on end? Even though your loved one rarely complained about assisting you daily, you felt like you were sucking the life out of them. Suicide was a viable option, in your mind.

I’ve heard stories like these as well. So if you’re confused if you lost someone to suicide, try to imagine their pain and perhaps you will free yourself of any guilt you may be harboring because you didn’t “do enough.”

Even if you did know they suffered from depression, as I did with my son, you still can’t always stop someone from ending their life. The key, I believe, is to catch the depression before it takes over the mind. And before the person tries to dull their pain with drugs and alcohol.

Mixing a mental illness with alcohol and other substances is a disaster waiting to happen. It could be a car accident, violence against someone else, or even suicide.

If you’ve experienced the pain of losing someone to suicide, I know your pain. If you fear someone you love may want to make that decision, do everything in your power to help by getting them to a mental health professional on a regular basis. It has been proven that meds and talk therapy are the best course of action for depression and other mental health illnesses.

Two weeks are the key thing to remember when depression is suspected. If depression lasts longer than two weeks, seek help immediately. This could be true for you, your child, your parent, or your friend. Anyone.

To learn more about teen depression and my story, you can find my book “Save the Teens: Preventing Suicide, Depression and Addiction” on my website savetheteens.com or  Amazon.com.

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