Michaela Bush, Columnist
Let’s talk about something not-so-nice for a few minutes.
Why people are driven to it varies; the unfathomable hopelessness and despair that most experience before it is just that…unfathomable. But do you know what we need to stop doing? Sugar-coating it, making pacts concerning it, and labeling or ostracizing those who experience suicidal thoughts.
I’m going to go down that list systematically here.
Sugar-coating suicide is wrong. It’s not pretty, and it’s never the answer; it’s never the correct solution. If you fail in your attempt—which plenty of people do—then it gets a hundred times worse and someone else might have to decide whether or not to let you die…that is never okay. What you don’t know about, what people never seem to consider, is how the suicide will affect others around them. Feeling completely lonely in the world does not mean that you are. Suicide is a selfish act based on the loss of hope and the inability to see the 50/50 chance that life will get better. Despite its selfishness, suicide simultaneously affects yourself and dozens of people around you. It involves all of the people you didn’t know were there for you…but you could have reached out to any one of them had you either known or allowed yourself to.
I think learned helplessness affects suicidal individuals as well: if you’ve felt hopeless for so long, at one point you just give up and stop trying to win the battle, even if you’re given the solutions or people to help you. I understand that it isn’t an easy thing to beat. I do. But your own desire to live affects this as well. Once you start making yourself believe that life can be better, being less hard on yourself and knowing that you are loved (even if you just think it’s your cat who loves you)…it will be easier to work through.
The people who make pacts for suicide, or those who glorify it online—specifically on Tumblr, which is one reason why I left the site—aren’t any better. There’s always a choice, and killing yourself just because someone told you to, or you got into a group you shouldn’t have…they have blood on their hands too, but ultimately, it is your decision. There are always two options: to choose life, or to choose devastation. However, this leads me to my next point: labeling and the inability to discuss suicide. I found this quote online, and it seems to very well encompass the problem:
“We seem to separate ourselves from the subject of self-murder in the same way that the suicide feels himself separated from the rest of us when he contemplates the fate he is about to choose. Alienated and alone, he is drawn to the grave because there seems no other place to go.” This is from “How We Die” by Sherwin Nuland. Suicide is an uncomfortable thing to read about. I bet the second you read the opening lines for this article, you squirmed with discomfort or thought about skipping this entirely, didn’t you? It isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but it gets infinitely harder when someone you love ends up committing suicide. It’s better to talk about it before it happens than wonder what you could’ve done to stop him or her after the fact. When we avoid this uncomfortable topic, it creates an immense amount of discomfort or tension. But if someone happens to reach out, trying to keep everything ‘hush-hush’ or making yourself believe that someone would never actually go through with the suicide, often ends badly.
Ignoring the problem or saying that it’s just a phase won’t make the problem disappear; it only makes the suicidal individual clam up and refuse to seek help because, just as the quote states, they are made to feel even more out of place or alone in the world. Treat these people like they’re human because they are, and feeling human again is exactly what might help them realize that they can heal.
If you are feeling down in the dumps or are currently considering suicide, I beg of you, reach out to someone. Just talk. There is always someone who loves you, and things do get better. I promise you that, for as many tomorrows you’ve gone through waiting for things to get better, there are weeks and years in the future that are completely filled with love, good company, and happiness. You only have to allow it to, and you only have to choose to live through the bad times in order to reach the good. Please. No mother should ever bury her baby, no child should ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the day their dad finally gave up, no one should ever be a pallbearer for their best friend, no counselor should listen to dozens of teenagers wishing they had just known…no one should ever experience the horrors that suicide brings.
And to anyone who loves anybody to any capacity, be it platonic, familial, or romantically…tell them. Don’t be afraid to reach out. And if you just can’t get someone off your mind today, maybe that’s a sign that you ought to stop and say hello. You never know what might turn someone’s day or even their life around.
I am currently in the backseat, witnessing my community mourn the decision made by a kid whom nobody thought would ever do it. It is gut-wrenching, it is sorrowful, and it should never happen to anyone. In the past two weeks, I’ve comforted waitresses at my place of work who completely broke down just knowing that the funeral was the day before. I’ve read an obituary of a boy I’ve known since we were little. I’ve seen a woman unable to even speak for the pain she’s experiencing. Never is this ever an appropriate course of action devoid of collateral damage.
Finally –don’t wait to seek help and don’t be afraid to seek it, don’t wait to offer help until it is too late, and please don’t ever treat suicide as anything other than what it is: an atrocity that affects way too many people, which should be prevented at all costs. Don’t wait to help someone escape that desire, and treat them with respect because they’re trying to escape the life-swallowing jaws that clamp down so tightly on their mind.