Why Can’t We Talk About Suicide?

If more of us were actually adults instead of over-grown children just pretending to be adults, we could talk about suicide, and have a sustained, reasoned discussion about this very real issue. But I don’t see that happening.

A rant triggered by comments on a Facebook post.

Suicide has been at the back of my mind and a viable solution on the table for most of my life. I’ve known plenty of people who’ve committed suicide, and I’ve sympathized with every one of them. I’m not one of these asshats who believes that people who choose to end their lives are cowards. Just the opposite. It takes a great deal of strength to carry through a decision like that.

I’ve laughed in the face of suicide most of my adult life. It’s like a dragon that lives in your backyard. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to have a relationship with it. And you acknowledge the possibility, and even probability, that one day it’ll take you down. But that doesn’t mean you whimper about it. You give it a name and make fun of it, and by doing so you rob it of some its power.

The basic problem when it comes to suicide awareness is that people love to check off their little boxes and get the credit for talking about suicide. Which, of course, means as little as putting a bumper sticker on your car that says “I support the troops” and thinking that’s all it takes to support the troops (but never sending in care packages, or even looking twice at veterans and their struggles in the real world). In short, most people are full of shite. If you’ll notice, when most folks talk about knowing someone who committed suicide, they don’t really talk much about the person who did it and what they were struggling with, but rather how that suicide affected them. In short, they’re quick to check off that little box for credit and pretend “I know the struggle”.

For my own part, my struggle with depression and suicide is a daily struggle. It’s uncomfortable to those who know me to hear it, but I know it’s a struggle I might lose someday. Most of the people who kill themselves are not lost in the depths of some deep, melodramatic spiral of depression. Most of the time people are just tired and want the struggle to end. There’s nothing wrong with that. Only we can decide when we’ve had enough, and each person has their own limits.

Rather than put the bumper sticker on our cars and pat ourselves on the back, the best way we can address the issue of suicide is to put aside the melodrama and just talk about it. Part of the reason suicides almost always surprise the family and friends of those who do that is because we place such a melodramatic stigma upon the idea of suicide that those who are struggling with depression, despair, and other issues are saddled with shame that they might be weak, or that by trying to talk about their problems they’ll hear the same old Hallmark canned responses about “you’ve got so much to live for” and “people who commit suicide are cowards”.

If more of us were actually adults instead of over-grown children just pretending to be adults, we could talk about suicide, and have a sustained, reasoned discussion about this very real issue. But I don’t see that happening. Our level of discussion will never get far beyond hitting the “share” button on a Facebook post, and believing that posting something to our profile means we care. Meanwhile the people who are suffering from the struggles and just want the misery to end continue to think about checking out. Although I’m sure that when they’re gone, if they can look down upon us from whatever plane they continue to exist upon (if they do), they’ll appreciate our Facebook posts, bumper stickers, and declarations that “I’ve known people who killed themselves”. Please note that the last sentence was loaded with sarcasm.

If you know someone who is struggling with depression, or suffering from despair caused by financial struggles or recent losses, how about instead of checking off that credit box you just go visit that person, and let them know you’re thinking about them. Sometimes all people want is to be acknowledged, and to have someone recognize their struggle. Sometimes just knowing that someone is listening makes all the difference. When you feel like you’re a ghost already, it’s not a big step to make it official. And while people line up to wail dramatically once we’re gone, all that means nothing if those same people couldn’t be bothered while we were still here.

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