The topic of depression/ suicide can be taboo to discuss. Feeling suicidal in our society is often viewed as something that is selfish. When someone takes their own life, the family is often left feeling sad, guilty, and/or angry. Outsiders who hear about suicide don’t quite know how to respond to it. We are uncomfortable with it because we do not understand it. It can be very difficult for suicidal individuals to discuss what they are feeling with others because they may feel even further isolated when those they discuss it with become angry or brush it off. It is therefore important to understand what leads someone to become suicidal and how to deal with it when confronted with the idea.
Depression is something most people have felt at one point in their life or another. It may never reach clinical levels, but we all face hardships in our lives that make us very sad. On that level, we can all understand it. Perhaps that is why it is so difficult to understand suicidality. Because we all experience depressive feelings at one point or another, we assume we know what depression is. However, for some, this depression becomes all consuming. It is so heavy and unrelenting that one cannot imagine a light at the end of the tunnel. When the pain is great, it can be almost impossible to see the positives in one’s life. They may not be able to recognize that people in their lives care for them. They may know they are loved but feel they are a terrible burden on their loved ones who would be better off without them. They may not believe they are lovable and believe they will never find happiness. They may be haunted by something painful they experienced and see no freedom from the pain in their future. Many times, people who are deeply depressed cannot even imagine the future. They are so stuck in the pain of the present or the past that the future does not seem to even exist. The positives in their life seem nonexistent or minor in comparison to the pain they feel- not because they don’t appreciate what they have, but because the depression is so great that it feels enormous compared to the good.
It is important for someone who has been considering suicide to be able to discuss the depression without judgment or fear. While it can be difficult, try to recognize that the depression and inability to see positives is not a reflection on how that person feels about you. Be patient. Provide a support system and recognize you can’t necessarily change the pain. Try to remind your loved one of the positives. Try to get them to do the things they used to enjoy. Encourage them to seek therapeutic help. Don’t blame yourself. Try not to be angry and recognize their pain.
If someone you know tells you they are in imminent danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911. They may not be happy, but they will be alive. This will give them time to breathe, get out of that dark space, and reevaluate their choice.