Nothing creates chaos in the mind like trying to process the suicide of someone we know or even only know about. Our survival instinct is so strong that the thought of willfully ending life produces cognitive dissonance.. Even though my work as a therapist and as an emergency room mental health clinician has steeped me in signs and risks and interventions, a life lost by suicide produces a shock that survivors must struggle to deal with. It is always the same: the shock, the anger, the deep sense of loss, and sometimes the pain of what ifs.
This morning after I write this, I will be attending the funeral of the young son of a friend who committed suicide last week, a day after Kate Spade and several days before Anythony Bourdain. The news is full of statistics to remind us that we are losing the battle on many fronts to save one another from the ravages of suicide and surviving the suicides of others.
The next several columns will be devoted to the very complex subject of suicide.
It is not an easy subject to write about. Talking about suicide does not “plant” the idea in vulnerable person but brings the despair and issues of depression and substance abuse out of the shadows and into discussion. Isolation is probably the strongest contributing factor in the contemplation of suicide and community the strongest help in pulling someone back toward life. All the medications and cognitive behavioral therapy in the world cannot be enough if there is no one to listen. The hotline in the title is a national listening ear, but the best ears are our own. Listen and then refer to mental health professionals when you hear hopelessness that is the ground of suicide.