The "S" Word and the Stigma
Suicide… When you read that word how does it make you feel? What runs through your mind? As you read it, say it out loud. What does it sound like? What words come to mind? Words such as selfish, weak, sad, withdrawn, pained, messed up, depressed, self-loathing, sick, and more may come to mind. It can be a tough word to say and even tougher conversation to have. It can make someone feel angry, frustrated, hate, and more.
Everyone has a different reaction to the word suicide. There is one feeling that I know everyone feels every time they read or hear the word suicide. That is "uncomfortable". There’s a certain stigma associated with the word suicide that elicits a response that takes the conversation into an awkward setting. A lot of the awkward feelings come from the lack of knowledge on the subject itself.
My goal with today’s blog is to say it’s ok to talk about it. It’s ok to bring it up to someone you suspect that is having emotional and/or psychological struggles. I’m no expert by any means, but I know what goes on in my head and what I’ve been through.
The first step in helping someone who has or may currently be thinking of suicide is to put your feelings aside for a minute. Regardless of your thoughts and beliefs, the pain is all too real for the one with the suicidal tendencies. Most of the time, they just want the pain to go away, they feel as if no one can help. It could be emotional, psychological, or physical pain. The pain could stem from guilt, guilt that they survived a traumatic event, but others didn’t. There's no battle tougher to fight then the battle with your own mind. So, let’s start by putting aside your personal beliefs about suicide in order to have a better understanding of what someone may be going through.
Don’t let the stigma of suicide hold you back from helping someone. Bring it up in conversation, let them know it’s ok to talk to you about their thoughts and how they’re feeling. Easier said than done, I know. My knee-jerk reaction when asked how I'm doing is to respond with, “I’m fine”. When someone knows you won’t judge them, eventually they will let their guard down and start to open up. This road may be long and bumpy, but it will become easier over time.
Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of suicide. Here are a few warning signs:
Randomly talking about suicide.
Avoiding social interactions with others.
Thoughts of no hope for the future.
Sudden sense of calm.
Making a will or giving away personal possessions.
Sleeping too much or too little.
Expressing rage or intentions to seek revenge.
Showing signs of anxiousness or agitation.
Searching for a means of doing personal harm.
Engaging in reckless behaviors, including excessive alcohol or drug consumption.
All of these signs are right under our noses. We’ll only see them if we open our eyes and minds, we’ll be able to see them, then we’ll be able to help. If you know someone that is suicidal, do the following:
Call 911 or your local emergency number.
Stay with the person until help arrives.
Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
If you know someone that is considering suicide, get help from the Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
Let's not forget the loved ones left behind. Here's a website to help those after a suicide: www.survivorsofsuicide.com.
Just remember, talking about suicide doesn’t cause it. So, start talking today.