Suicide: The Topic Everyone Avoids
A high school classmate, a church friend, a former employer, my dentist: What do they have in common? Each was a victim of suicide.
Every seventeen minutes, someone makes the tragic decision to end his or her own life. In the wake of those lost lives, family members and others are left behind to piece their lives back together. They quickly discover suicide is a subject whispered behind cupped hands, shrouded in myth, and rarely spoken of openly and honestly. This fact makes their grief more intense and their healing a much longer process.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month, and while prevention is the ultimate goal, knowing how to reach out to those left behind following a suicide loss is equally as important.
Here’s how you can help:
Be bold. Grieving survivors need to be acknowledged, not ignored. Don’t be afraid to discuss the subject of suicide with survivors, but make sure you’re dispelling the myths rather than reinforcing them.
Be practical and available. Be specific about what you are willing to do. Offer help with childcare or meals. Locate a counselor or support group and provide transportation to appointments or meetings.
Be a mythbuster. Untruths about suicide abound. Learn to distinguish fact from fiction.
- Most suicides occur without warning. False. A suicidal gesture usually happens before the act.
- People who threaten suicide don’t follow through. False. Talking about suicide is a cry for help.
- Mentioning suicide to a depressed person plants the idea. False. Talking about suicide decreases the person’s vulnerability by reducing isolation and acknowledging emotional pain.
- If there isn’t a note, it wasn’t a suicide. False. Only about a third of suicide victims leave a note.
- The tendency toward suicide is inherited. False. There is no genetic predisposition to suicide, but unfortunately, remaining family members often view suicide as an acceptable escape from difficulties.
- A suicidal person can’t be talked out of it. False. The suicidal are struggling with the decision to live or die, hearing internal voices shout yes and no. The words of one concerned external voice can tip the scales in favor of life.
- Only insane people kill themselves. False. Depression and negative thought patterns can lead a person to contemplate death, but those who are suicidal aren’t crazy. Remaining family members struggle with the stigma associated with this myth.
- Suicide equals eternity in hell. False. Suicide does not negate a person’s salvation decision.
Candy Arrington is coauthor of AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H Publishing Group). Her writing provides insights and practical support, often on tough topics. A native South Carolinian, Candy gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, and scripture application to everyday life. @CandyArrington, www.CandyArrington.com