I have wanted to write a piece on suicide for a long time now, but I struggled to figure out what I wanted to say. As the saying goes, the only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing, be nothing and say nothing, and I don't want to take that route.
After working at a national suicide charity here in Ireland for the last few months, I've realized just how big the topic is, and everything it encompasses.
After losing a friend to suicide during the summer, it's fair to say that I have become sensitive to these topics, and with the work I am in, they occupy a lot of my days.
Unfortunately, it's a rarity in today's world to find someone who hasn't been affected by suicide. Statistically speaking, for every one person who takes his or her own life, at least 20 others are directly affected. Six out of those 20 become suicidal themselves.
I don't want to talk statistics, however; numbers are cold, and behind each number is a life just as precious as the next.
I want to talk about why I believe suicide is never the answer; it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Rather than preventing life from getting worse, it eradicates the possibility of it ever getting better.
I may not be a professional who has been in this line of work for 40+ years, but I have learned a lot in my time here. One of the most important things I've learned, however, is that the phrase, "I want to die" is really just a metaphor for "I want to live."
What I have found is that there is this undeniable desire for those who are suffering from suicidal ideation for a "normal" life. They want to return to a time where they remember feeling happy, content even, but for some reason, they can't because they're stuck.
The most common theme that emerges from therapy with suicidal individuals is "dislocation." Words used to describe these individuals' mental state often include lost, trapped or stuck.
It is important to remember that this is not a physical dislocation; it is not where they are that has them stuck, but rather, who they are.
This, according to Fredric Matteson, suicidologist in Seattle, Washington, can lead to an identity crisis. For some reason, suicidal people are trapped in this crisis, stagnant and unable to move forward with discovering whom they are in developing their identity.
Considering those who are thinking of taking their own life, even at this very minute, I ask you: If you don't know who you are, then who are you killing? You want out, but what are you in?
If you get rid of the pain before you understand it's question, then you get rid of the self -- Carl
If something has caused you mental anguish or distress, the way in which many people seem to deal with this is to either ignore or bear the pain.
But without acknowledging what it was that made you feel like this in the first place, you will never truly understand that part of the self, thus losing an important piece of your identity.
Maybe ignoring a part of who we inevitably are prevents us from accepting ourselves and moving forward. Is this why we might get stuck? In all of the analogies I have heard describing those who experience suicidal thoughts, I believe this one to be the best:
Have you ever watched a fly against a window, trying desperately to get out but only going one way, the same way, trying to go through the window, only to bounce back off it, hurting themselves each time yet returning adamantly to the same spot with more and more desperation to escape the pain and the entrapment?
Even when someone intervenes, forcing them up to the open window, they fight against it.
If the fly just stopped for a minute, flew back just a little bit to take in his surroundings and understand where he was, he would see an open window, an open door and realize that he doesn't have to go through the pain of being stuck trying to get out of that space he was once in.
He can now see where he was but more importantly, where he is going, out into the beautiful world of endless possibilities.
This applies to everybody in life, not just those suffering from suicidal thoughts. It is so important to take a step back from time to time, make sure that the path we're on is where we want to be and if not, only you can change it.
There is always help at hand, and there is always someone to talk to. Don't suffer in silence; you may feel alone now but there are so many others going through a similar time as you. Be brave and reach out to the help that is there.
Another life lost to suicide is one too many.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It