I’ve dealt with depression for a long time. I mean, I was diagnosed so long ago that my depression is almost old enough to go to high school. But aside from the fact that depression makes you feel like crap, all the time, and even with treatment and medication you still feel kind of lousy a lot, one of the worst roads depression can lead you down is the road to suicide. And, unlike the song lyric, suicide isn’t painless.
Suicide is one of those things that nobody wants to think about, but that a lot of people end up thinking about seriously – according to the CDC, in 2010 38,364 suicides were reported – it was the 10th highest cause of death in the country. And depression makes it often a particularly tempting way out. Depression makes you feel so terrible, like nothing will ever get any better, like the world will be better off without you, like everything hurts. I should know, I’ve tried it twice.
One of the things that those of us who think about suicide never really think about seriously is how our deaths will affect those people who care for us. At least for people with depression, it is because we are so convinced of our own worthlessness, of the fact that we won’t and can’t amount o anything, and that we are just terrible human beings that we think that people who care about us will be better off if we’re gone. It seems crazy to think about it now, but it is how it works out in our heads.
It’s not true, though. I can only begin to think about what my family and friends went through after I tried to kill myself, twice. After my first try, I was so zombified on medication and electro-convulsive therapy to see the expressions of shock and anguish on their faces, even when my friends flew from across the country to come see me. For my second attempt the looks on the faces of my family were all too clear to me; I could hear how my friends felt in their voices over the phone. Even though my feeling powerless was part of why I tried to end my life, part of my treatment was realizing that I have real power over my friends and family through my actions. It was a hard pill to swallow.
Now I have friends who are in that dark area of their lives. Two of them, in fact; they both mentioned thinking about it today (today being Sunday, 9/8, not Monday, 9/9). If I was a therapist, I would be bound to report this to someone, but I’m not, so their identities will remain secret, because I know they are both very afraid of being sent back to hospitals. But now I don’t feel powerless because I want to end my life, but rather because I have friends stuck in a terrible place and I don’t know what can be done to help them.
Like I said, I’m not a therapist. All I am is a person who has been in that dark place, and was lucky enough to survive it twice. Now I’m in a much better place in my life, but it took a long, long time to get here. It’s not easy watching someone you care about on the road to suicide. I am probably not the only person here who is watching someone else go through this, or is going through it themselves. It’s hard to know what can help at a time like this, but I thought I would try and provide some tools, anyway.
Active Listening – one of the things suicidal people (well, me, anyway) have a problem with is people not listening to them, or always trying to solve their problems when what they really want is someone to listen to them and hear what they’re saying. Active listening is a tool for that.
IS PATH WARM? – this is a mnemonic device used to help assess the condition of someone who may be suicidal. Mnemonics are a big part of the skills and tools we are taught in the various treatment groups, so this may be helpful for people who think someone they are close to is suicidal.
American Association of Suicidology – “AAS is a membership organization for all those involved in suicide prevention and intervention, or touched by suicide. AAS is a leader in the advancement of scientific and programmatic efforts in suicide prevention through research, education and training, the development of standards and resources, and survivor support services.”
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – “… is the nation’s leading organization bringing together people across communities and backgrounds to understand and prevent suicide, and to help heal the pain it causes. Individuals, families, and communities who have been personally touched by suicide are the moving force behind everything we do.”
I don’t want to lose my friends. Please, just tell me, what can I do?