There are a lot of negative judgements surrounding suicidal thoughts and actions. To most people just the word ‘suicide’ is rather shocking. If someone has attempted or died from suicide, the word is often avoided altogether. Just recently I heard of a young man who appears to have taken his own life but the word ‘suicide’ was not attached to his tragic death. Instead it was referred to as an ‘accidental death’. Everyone knew what had really happened but it was seen as such a terrible and possibly also a shameful thing that people couldn’t bring themselves to use the word. Perhaps they hoped it would bring some comfort to the family to interpret the situation as an accident. However, this does highlight that people feel a lot of discomfort surrounding suicide. They see a suicide as a different kind of death than those caused by physical illness or injury.
One place that you do hear about suicide is on the train. A number of times I have been informed, along with the other commuters, that there will be delays to the train service due to a person jumping in front of another train. Whenever I hear this, my heart skips a beat and I feel terrible sadness and empathy with that person. They must have been in a lot of pain to see suicide as their only option. Unfortunately not everyone sees the situation like this. I sometimes hear groans of fellow passengers who are both annoyed with the delay and disapproving of the suicide. The reaction is always more extreme when the delay is caused by a suicide rather than, say, a signal failure.
Another rare time you will hear people talk about suicide is when someone in the public arena has killed themselves. People will often talk about how terrible it must be for the family. The family will obviously be devastated by the death of their loved one. Often this will be accompanied by feelings of guilt that they should have been able to help more. Most people realise the turmoil that the family must be going through. However, they often don’t extend their feelings of sympathy to the person who has died by suicide. They may express how selfish the individual may have been to leave his/her family and friends behind. This disapproval is especially strong if the person had children.
These common sentiments highlight that there is a huge stigma surrounding suicidal thoughts and actions. Often people will not understand how someone could ever become suicidal. They find it very hard to put themselves in the suicidal person’s shoes. They may judge those who have thought about suicide, attempted suicide or completed suicide as weak, irresponsible, reckless and selfish.
It is because of these kinds of judgements that people will often hide their suicidal thoughts. They end up suffering in silence. People have suicidal thoughts because they are in mental turmoil and they feel like they can no longer live with this pain. Often it may not that they particularly want to die. It is more a case of wanting the pain to go away and death seems like the only option available which will guarantee a relief from this unbearable pain.
Suicidal thoughts and actions do not make a person weak. Dealing with clinical depression and other mental illnesses is exceptionally hard. Sufferers will have been strong just to battle through their intense mental pain for so long. People who have suicidal thoughts or suicidal intentions should not just be viewed as a selfish either. Sufferers may be unable to think of others when they are contemplating suicide because they can only focus on the intense and chronic pain they are experiencing. Depression has a way of distorting your view of yourself and the world and so the effect of your suicidal actions on yourself and others becomes confused. Sufferers may feel like their family and friends would be better off without them.
I myself have experienced suicidal thoughts although I am lucky in the sense that I have never tried to kill myself or made any detailed suicidal plans. I have a very open and understanding family and so I feel like I can tell them about my suicidal thoughts (to some degree anyway) without being judged. They are able to talk me through my suicidal thoughts and highlight all the reasons why suicide is not a good solution to the problem. However, for many people, there isn’t someone they can turn to. For many the response of others to their suicidal thoughts will be of shock, irritation, confusion and anger. Therefore the suicidal person feels like they cannot open up. There is no one there to help them work through these distressing thoughts and prevent them making a rash and fatal decision.
Suicidal thoughts are more common than we would like to think. The stigma surrounding suicide means that people feel like they cannot open up about their suicidal thoughts. The problem is that there will be no one there to help this person analyse their thoughts and put them in to context. We need to work together to end the stigma surrounding suicide and allow people to open up about their distressing thoughts. We can then work towards helping these individuals and prevent more suicides in the future.
If you do feel suicidal please talk to someone. If you don’t feel able to open up to someone that you know please see your GP or call someone at the Samaritans open 24 hours a day on 08457 90 90 90. There is always someone who can help you if you let them in.