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Helping before suicide occurs - many of those who wish to die seek help desperately. How can we be there for them?
At times I feel like I am lying naked in a deep, deep hole and there is not a ray of light. Lying down in a fetal position I look completely black to myself.
And now all I want to do is lay in this black hole and let my breath stop and my bones rot.
The Author David Foster Wallace once made an analogy for the situation. He said it is like standing at the edge of the window, of a burning window. There comes a time when the fear of flames overcomes the fear of death and you jump.
Behind that smile is a girl.
who begs for someone to steal her pain.
Someone to become a thief of misery.
and a savior of suicide.
– by Leigh Nickolyn on poetrysoup.com
I have been that girl for long and I have been in the black hole twice. Someone came to the rescue but I believe they came to the rescue of the act of suicide and not to the rescue of the girl.
Because what is left of the girl is once again the smile.
There is tons of material out there that will tell you to look for signs of someone who is likely to commit suicide. Let me tell you as a survivor of 2 suicide attempts that sometimes, those signs are too late. If you spot that sign, the person is in all likelihood at the top of the tower with 1 foot in the air.
The real signs that could/should be caught early are:
If these persist for over 2 or 3 meetings this person needs help. And I suggest instead of waiting to decipher, you ask the question “Do you also feel suicidal sometimes?” Talking about suicide does not plant that idea in people’s minds. In fact talk often, laugh, set a survival plan.
The stigma, taboo and myth around talking about mental illness only makes things worse.
A brave mother of Michael who died of suicide (not committed suicide).
How can you deal with someone who sends a text message or calls to say “I am done, I want to check out”?
A few close friends are usually baffled and well meaningly try.
I will tell you here that they don’t work for me. I love my friends for trying. I have reached a place where I am CRYING (metaphorically) for help.
A note to those who get the “I am done, I want to check out” messages/phone calls, to try and help using appropriate questions. Here are the possible reasons for the blackness.
“Is there something you wish you hadn’t done or said?”
Hear me out completely and don’t tell me how silly the situation is. The shame I feel has lead me here so it definitely means a lot to me. Remind me instead of something that I/you/everyone was proud of me about.
“Do you feel some kind of pain in your body? Physical or emotional?
Pain can and does go away. We both know it. I am not saying the scars will go away too but the pain will go. Do you want to listen to some music (or anything else they enjoy). And accompany me to the doctor at the earliest.
“Have you been hurting for a while about some thing?”
Hear me out. Remind me of how easy it is to let GO of the people and situations that hurt me. And that you will be with me through the pain of letting go.
“Are you feeling alone? Do you need a hug or maybe someone by your side?”
I prefer not using the word lonely, it had a negative ring to it and also ‘loneliness’ connotes a period of time, while ‘alone’ is temporary. Meet the person for a coffee or better still go over and just sit by their side.
Usually I would verbalize this by saying ‘I hate myself’. But if I don’t, you can ask, “Do you love yourself? Can I please tell you of a few things you will be throwing away (probably something you have never told a loved one) and a few people you will hurt immensely?” How will we live without you is a very strong statement.
“Are you tired? Physically/mentally?”
Can we go see someone about this? I am sure there is a way to manage fatigue both physical and mental. Don’t just say it , accompany me to a medical help professional. FATIGUE is REAL and sometimes the BIGGEST life killer.
Lastly here is a suicide survivor’s story on TED.
It’s a conversation worth having and an idea worth spreading.
Pic credit: Bourguiboeuf (Used under a Creative Commons license)
The power of stories to inspire change made me turn into a storyteller. I write on 2 topics that need a very clear shift in attitude – ‘Being single in India’ & ‘Stigma attached to mental read more...
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