I didn't want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that's really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you're so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare
― Ned Vizzini, It's Kind of a Funny Story
Did you really want to die?
No one commits suicide because they want to die.
Then why do they do it?
Because they want to stop the pain.
― Tiffanie DeBartolo, How to Kill a Rock Star
But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.
― Albert Camus
When we speak of the term ‘suicide’ it triggers a variety of emotional responses in people. Some people empathise with those who attempt to/ or commit suicide while many others get agitated about it. In fact, some people believe that anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy. However, this is just a myth and a misconception. The truth is suicide is not a mental illness in itself, but a serious potential consequence of many mental disorders, particularly major depression.
A person contemplating suicide may not ask for help, but that doesn't mean that help isn't wanted. People who take their lives don't want to die—they just want to stop hurting. It is indeed a desperate attempt to escape misery that has become unbearable.
Before trying to help someone who could be suicidal in any way, it is important for us to break the myths about suicide that usually act as a barrier towards providing assistance to someone in danger.
MYTH : Talking about suicide or asking someone if they feel suicidal will encourage suicide attempts.
FACT : Suicide can be a taboo topic in society. The truth is, by asking directly about suicide you give them permission to tell you how they feel. People who have felt suicidal will often say what a huge relief it is to be able to talk about what they’re experiencing.
MYTH : People who threaten suicide are just attention seeking and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
FACT : All suicide attempts must be treated as though the person has the intent to die. Do not dismiss a suicide attempt or any verbal cues as simply being an attention-gaining device as this can be a cry for help. It is likely that the young person has tried to gain attention and, therefore, this attention is needed. The attention that they get may well save their lives.
MYTH : Only certain ‘types’ of people become suicidal.
FACT : Suicide does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone. It can very much happen in your family too. Some people believe that only mental health problems lead to suicides, but this is a myth indeed. Anything can cause suicide. Substance abuse, feeling of rejection, rage, emotional pain and anger, literally anything.
MYTH : Suicide is painless.
FACT : Many suicide methods are very painful. Fictional portrayals of suicide do not usually include the reality of the pain.
MYTH : Suicides always happen in an impulsive moment
FACT : "People contemplate, think about it, imagine it, fantasize about it, write suicide notes, and post things on the Web. After many days or weeks, [they] then perhaps make a fatal attempt. There is a major theory in the field that says that no suicides are impulsive. That there is always a history if you dig deep enough.” - David Jobes, the head of Catholic University's Suicide Prevention Lab
MYTH : People who are suicidal want to die.
FACT : As mentioned earlier, the majority of people who feel suicidal do not actually want to die; they do not want to live the life they have. The distinction may seem small but is in fact very important if you’re trying to help out a loved one who is displaying suicidal tendencies with some remedial approaches.
Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can't see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to suicide, but they just can't see one. Most people do cry out for help, not in obvious ways. Of course, they won’t come right out and say it. Some people may hint at what they are feeling with the hope that others will pick up on the clues. Some people may use some sort of ‘code language’ that means “I’m suicidal” without actually saying the words.
Let’s look at some of these warning signs
Suicidal Talk – Talking about suicide may suggest that they are planning to take their own life. They may ask for your opinion and talk about suicide with you. This may be a cry for help.
- I wish I hadn't been born"
- If I see you again..."
- "I'd be better off dead."
- “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
- “They’ll miss me when I’m gone,” or “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone.”
- “They won't have me around to hurt anymore.”
- “I won’t be in your way much longer.”
Seeking out harmful and dangerous means – If someone seems to be collecting medication or purchasing new weapons out of the blue such as guns, pills, knives, ropes or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt. It is a major warning sign.
No hope for the future – Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped. Belief that things will never get better or change.
- There's no way out"
- “Life isn’t worth living”
- “I see no light”
- “I’m afraid to get up. I would rather not open my eyes ever”
- “There’s nothing I can do to make it better.”
- “Life isn’t worth living”
Self-loathing, self-hatred – Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden.
- "Everyone would be better off without me"
- “I’ve been irreparably damaged… I’ll never be the same again”
- “I’m so lonely I wish I could die.”
- “Nothing I do makes a bit of difference, it’s beyond my control”
- “It’s all my fault, I’m to blame”
Getting affairs in order – Some people have their will created and change it when their death is seemingly close. Therefore, if the individual is creating a will or talking about what they would put in theirs, talk to them. Make sure they are okay. Another important cue is – giving away possessions. When someone is suicidal they often give away stuff that they will not need when they die. Some people see it as closure and think it will help their grieving friends and family. Another warning sign is - unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again.
Reckless, dangerous behaviour – This could include taking unnecessary risks as if they have a "death wish." Since suicidal people feel no reason to live, they may take risks that could lead to death. Here are few potential signs to look out for: Excessive use of drugs (legal or illegal) and alcohol and reckless driving, such as driving too fast or under the influence.
Social withdrawal and isolation – Sometimes when a person is suicidal, they will no longer have an interest in their social life. They will cut friends and family off, thinking they are not good enough. They don't think they need a social life. They isolate themselves, and tend to spend a lot of time alone.
Sudden sense of calmness and happiness – This sign is the most confusing out of all. A sudden sense of calmness and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to attempt suicide. Suicide takes energy and planning, so when someone attempts suicide, it happens when they are just above that low point and have the energy to plan and execute said plan. Some people have claimed that just before someone has committed suicide, they are happy and calm. That might be because they have their plan finalized and realized that the pain will soon be over.
Things to say / Things not to say to someone displaying suicidal tendencies:
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that talking someone out of suicide is an extremely difficult thing to do. However, it is not impossible.
Every person is different in terms of what they need to hear in those moments. However, what can prove to be helpful is engaging that person in conversation when they are feeling their most vulnerable. So, here, we list down list of things to say and not to say to people when they are expressing suicidal thoughts.
“Suicide is selfish. Think of how your family would feel.”
“You matter to me.”
“There are other people who have it worse than you.”
“Is there anything I can do that can help?”
“I get sad too sometimes.”
“You’re not alone. We’ll get through this together.”
“Suicide is the easy way out.”
“I understand and feel your pain. But you must know that I really care about you and will do whatever it takes for you to be happy again.”
“Are you doing this for attention?”
Hold their hands and say “Your life is precious to me and many others.”
“But your life is so good. This is all in your head. You really have no reason to feel like this. Just push through it.”
“What you went through was difficult. But you handled the pain so far. I believe in you and now you have to believe in me…I promise, we will get through this together.”
“Don’t be silly and just relax!”
“What is it that makes you feel this way? I know, you don’t see it now, but this is temporary. I am holding onto enough hope for the both of us and I am confident that we will step out of this extremely dark phase very soon.”