Helping prevent suicide

Posted by | December 07, 2018 | Social Support | No Comments

Have you ever thought about killing yourself? I did once, briefly. I considered a permanent solution for a temporary problem.

Shakespeare created the most memorable suicidal thoughts: “To be, or not to be? That is the question — Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them? To die…”

Lots of people think about suiciding at some point in their life. A study showed that 4% of adults thought about suicide in the prior 12 months. 

Australia averages about 3,000 suicides a year. Eight a day, almost every one with friends and family left behind. Suicide does not so much end suffering as distribute it. 

Years ago, I worked at a mental hospital. I talked sometimes to one of the nurses there, an older woman. One day as I arrived at work, I heard that the nurse had tried her hardest to kill herself with a gun. She ended up with permanent brain damage. Some staff members felt angry about her act. I felt guilty because the day before I had hurried by her saying only hello. What if I had stopped to have a conversation with her?  

I know individuals who are more or less suicidal. I find it hard to feel settled when someone I know may call the Grim Reaper. The suspense, the drama — it is better in fiction than in reality. 

Some time ago, I interviewed three individuals who made serious suicide attempts years before when they were teens. The attempts included taking an overdose of drugs, jumping off a cliff, and self-cutting. All ended up hospitalized. 

From their attempts and the aftermath, these individuals learned much about life. For instance, they learned that the teen years can be very tough and that situations and individuals change over time, so what looks hopeless at the moment may not look that way later.

These individuals added that it is important to seek help when feeling suicidal and that having others listen, without judging, is helpful

I nodded in agreement when they said that making it through difficult times can help strengthen a person to deal with later challenges. They also said that their experiences might help them aid others someday. 

I recently helped train counselors for a new Lifeline program in Armidale. I gave them a copy of the Reasons for Living Inventory they could use if they have a client with suicidal thoughts. Among the reasons for living: I still have many things left to do; I am curious about what will happen in the future; I have a responsibility to my family; I have the courage to face life.  

Marsha Linehan created the Reasons for Living Inventory. Her interest in preventing suicide grew from her own teen experiences with making suicidal attempts.  After surviving that difficult period, she became a psychologist and developed the most effective treatment for borderline personality disorder: dialectical behavior therapy.

Every year we have a World Suicide Prevention Day, established by the World Health Organization and mental health groups. One year the theme of the day was: “Take a minute, change a life.” Maybe you and I will take that minute and help someone through a difficult time. Providing a bit of social support might make all the difference.


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