It’s (past!) time to talk about suicide. Suicide is naturally somewhat of a taboo topic. It’s rarely discussed outside of clinical settings, and if it is, it’s after the fact. Oftentimes, it’s spoken about in hushed tones and short-lived as people don’t know what to say or are quick to change subjects.
Whether we talk about it or not, it is a reality that affects most people one way or another, whether you’ve lost someone to suicide, know someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, or struggle with them yourself. Regardless of how uncomfortable the topic makes us, it is relevant and worth talking about, and it’s worth talking about now.
The sooner we talk about it, the sooner we can start helping one another through it. If you’re feeling suicidal, not talking about it is probably not going to make it better.
Actually talking about it, on the other hand, might! Of course, it likely depends on who you talk to and how they respond. However, there’s a good chance, especially if you talk about it with a trained professional (like a therapist, a guidance counselor, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) that it will help. Sometimes, being honest about it and sharing is helpful in and of itself, undoing some of the fear or shame that thrives in secrecy. A trained professional can likely offer you hope when you have none, and the truth that you are valuable and important and that it can get better.
If you’ve struggled…
If you’ve struggled with it in the past, talking about it can be helpful not only for yourself,your processing, and your healing, but for others who might be wrestling with it silently. It can be powerful to hear that someone else has felt it too, and that they made it through. You could be a source of hope,comfort, or solidarity, and could help others feel less alone or isolated.
If you haven’t…
If you’ve never struggled with it, you can still talk about it! All of us, regardless of our own personal experience with suicidality, can be willing to engage in the topic when it does come up. We can ask about it if we notice warning signs in friends’ or coworkers’ conversation or behavior (here is a great list of warning signs). We can let people know that we can talk about it, and we can find ways to offer support through listening, encouraging, and referring for more help. When we talk about suicide or suicidal feelings with people, we can automatically reduce the isolation and secrecy and can open up the door for future communication, movement, or healing.
When to refer
There is one important caveat, though. There is a huge difference between being willing and open to talking with someone about suicidality, and making yourself their counselor or caretaker. We can all be there for one another, support one another, offer help and encouragement when we can. If someone is struggling with thoughts of killing her- or him-self, that is not something you as a loved one can handle alone. Even as you offer support, you need to refer to trained professionals.
We need to talk about suicide, not because it isn’t a big deal but because it is. Often we need someone like a therapist or a doctor to help us through it, even as much as we appreciate and lean on friends and family.
Hope (for you, or your loved ones)
If you have struggled with thoughts about suicide, know that you are not alone and that even if you can’t see it, there is still hope. Take the step to reach out to someone right now. Any of the therapists here at Optimum Joy would love to talk and work with you, and there are also tons of other resources available to you (see this Resource post!). Please use them!
If you know or love someone struggling with thoughts of suicide, refer them to a professional and perhaps, come find some support for yourself as well! There is effective and helpful treatment out there – therapists in the area, counseling centers, hospitals, doctors, and plenty of other resources (see this Resource post!). Maybe familiarize yourself with resources specifically in your area so that while you listen and offer support, you have a list of professionals that you can suggest or refer to.
Whether you’re struggling with it yourself or walking with others who are struggling, suicide is a heavy topic. It is worth talking about in general, and certainly worth talking about with a counselor. Give us a call, we would love to meet with you.
*If you are thinking about killing yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) 24/7 to talk to a counselor, call 911, or head to a hospital. There is help and hope out there.
Written by therapist Clair Miller
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