This is not going to be my usual blog post. I have one written and ready to go, but there is something we need to discuss first: suicide.
Many people like to mentally categorize a suicide attempt into two categories: a ‘real’ attempt and a ‘fake’ attempt. Friends, I have done both but there is something you need to know: IT DOESN’T MATTER. If someone makes a halfhearted suicide attempt to get people’s attention, you better pay attention because it is still a true and sincere cry for help. I can tell you from experience that when people don’t take the halfhearted attempt seriously, it can result in a completed suicide. Someone who threatens to kill themselves clearly still needs to know they are loved and needed, so if you find yourself trying to differentiate intentions, stop. They need you.
I have had friends overdose, shoot themselves, slash their wrists and hang themselves. Over time I have learned many of the signs:
-Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
-Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
-Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
-Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
-Talking about being a burden to others.
-Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
-Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
-Sleeping too little or too much.
-Withdrawn or feeling isolated.
-Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
-Displaying extreme mood swings.
-Preoccupation with death.
-Suddenly happier, calmer.
-Loss of interest in things one cares about.
-Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
-Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order.
-Giving things away, such as prized possessions.
It’s one thing to see the signs; we all have friends that have done all these things and have no intentions of committing suicide. It is an entirely other affair to have seen these signs, passed it off as a phase and gotten a phone call the next day or week saying your friend is dead. I am sure many of you have a loved one or someone you knew who has taken their own life; it is sad and sobering. I will share a story that has haunted me for years:
While I was in the military, I met a very amicable fellow airman named Green. He laughed a lot, cracked good jokes and in general made everyone around him feel loved and supported. We were both fresh out of training and new to our base and it was a tough transition. I was getting asked out constantly, so by the time he asked me on a date, I snapped and was incredibly unkind about his offer. He shot himself that night in his dorm room. No one came looking for him until he hadn’t showed up to his post for DAYS.
You will never look like an idiot if you ask a friend if they are considering suicide. If they actually aren’t, the worst thing you will get is a weird look and even then, they will know you are paying attention and love them. If they say they are, don’t carry the secret on your own; they may feel like their trust is broken if you report something but if it means they are alive, it’s worth it. Since Green, I haven’t held back. If someone shows a sign, I do my best to support them. I ask them directly if they are contemplating suicide. Over the years, I have had more than ten people tell me yes and they are still alive today because of it.
The one thing I tell friends who have made attempts or come close to it is showing my heartbreak for their situation. Don’t play tough; don’t hold back! Let them know you LOVE them and that they are worth missing. Then GET THEM HELP. Contact me, their mentors, talk about going to the hospital with them, it doesn’t matter. You can’t bear that kind of burden on your own. They need and deserve it and you aren’t supposed to handle it on your own either.
Lastly, if you are reading this and considering suicide yourself, know you are loved. I love you. Know that if you go through with your plan, everyone you know will be heartbroken because if they knew what you were going through, they would want to help. Being close to someone and then getting a call saying they’ve committed suicide is one of the most painful things I’ve experienced because if only I KNEW, I’d have gone to the wall for that person. You need to tell someone. No one will call you crazy; they will try to love and support you because you are VALUABLE and worth supporting. I had had a couple friends go to suicide programs at the hospital and they have walked out with new hope, not the ‘crazy’ label. If your circumstances and life seem impossible, they can and will get better if you ask for help. There were times when I felt total darkness and hopelessness and that no one cared, but it GOT BETTER. I have a fairy-tale life now because I was saved, and you can be saved too. Give it a chance, because you belong on this earth. You have amazing skills and potential and the world NEEDS you. If you need support, ask for it because that’s what we’re here for. You are loved and completely worth it. You deserve to be saved.
If I get one moment only to share about suicide, it will be this: Love shamelessly. Communicate your heartbreak. I love you.