Last night I came across a blog posting that I suppose the author meant to be helpful to people feeling suicidal, and the families and friends who support them. Shockingly, the writer started with this statement
How the !@#$ is that supportive? Farther down in the post she writes, “My intent is not to rip on people who have these thoughts but to explain their thought process and how loved one’s can help.” Ripping on people who have these thoughts is exactly what she did with the opening statement, and it shows that she doesn’t understand the thought process of anyone who might feel suicidal. The post contained quotes from WebMD about mental illness and some basic psychological self-assessment tools about suicide. This information barely touches the surface of what someone who attempts suicide might feel or think.
I can’t remember the last time something I read made me this angry and feel the need to respond. I kept thinking about the opening statement as I continued to read the post. How can someone make such a harsh, judgemental statement and expect anyone who feels or has ever felt suicidal to keep reading. How could the writer expect someone who feels buried by the weight of depression and hopelessness, to see that shocking statement and feel comfortable reading further? To read on to learn what the writer considers helpful ideas about how to communicate with friends and family, when it feels like nothing but death can end the pain. How can the writer expect, someone like myself, who attempted suicide multiple times because I’m a survivor of horrendous, unspeakable things, to connect with anything she shares after that opening line.
The sad thing is that this isn’t the first time I’ve heard or read a statement like this. I’ve had the misfortune of sitting at a dinner table with people who openly stated that anyone who attempted or was successful at committing suicide is a weak coward. I felt myself shrink as the conversation continued around me. These people weren’t aware that I had attempted suicide. After hearing their callous, unfeeling, self-righteous statements about someone else’s suffering, I would never tell them about the pain I experienced that led me to believe that death was the only thing that could end my pain.
The people who make these statements don’t understand how hard it is to find resources; whether it is good doctors or therapists, or the right combination of medications to help someone who feels this kind of pain to cope. They don’t understand how deeply, someone living with depression, can feel shame because he or she believes they should be mentally stronger and tougher, and “snap out of it” because that’s the message sent by the society we live in. The people who make these statements don’t understand how hard it is to live day in and day out feeling detached from the world. Feeling like nothing you do can close the divide of the separation you feel from everyone in your life.
People who make these statements don’t understand hopelessness. They don’t understand someone feeling that he or she has tried everything in their power to get well, even when what they suffer from – bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, anxiety, or other mental health and chronic physical illnesses – has no cure and might only be manageable, at best. They don’t understand someone who has tried to “get over” whatever it is that hurt them. The thing that continues to split a person open over and over again because it has become part of their DNA. The people who make these statements don’t understand what it’s like to live feeling physical and/or psychological pain, shame, and self-blame for something you couldn’t stop from happening to you and now can’t control. They don’t understand how exhausting it is to live in a continuous state of hypervigilance because a disease or someone took away your sense of safety and well-being.
The writer who wrote, “Suicide is the ultimate act in selfishness,” needs to educate herself about why people attempt suicide rather than spouting off basic one-fits-all psychological information that she read on websites about how to prevent it.
Leona Lewis – Fireflies