Blog written by Rebecca Hicks, RN BScN
Today’s blog is a heavy one. Anyone who’s been impacted by suicide knows that it’s a terrifying, devastating and confusing experience, that will impact you forever. I’ve been impacted by suicide both in my personal and professional life and I can honestly say it’s one of the most devastating things I’ve ever gone through.
There are so many questions when a person dies by suicide. I think the most common question that comes up with death by suicide is why? Why couldn’t they push through? Why did they feel this was the only way? Why didn’t they reach out for help? Why would they do this to everyone left behind? Why wasn’t I enough?
These are tough questions and ones that will likely not be answered on this side of heaven. However I think it’s helpful to educate ourselves more about suicide so we can learn and hopefully prevent further deaths.
Here’s what we know about suicide. According to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, suicide is ranked as the 9th leading cause of death in Canada. In 2016, there were 3,926 suicides in Canada. In 2015, over 3, 396, 000 Canadians aged 12 and over had suicidal thoughts.
As you can see suicide and suicidal thoughts are very common. And yet most people don’t talk about it. There’s a huge stigma around it, which doesn’t help people experiencing suicidal thoughts to reach out and talk about it.
Here’s what we know about suicidal thoughts/suicide:
⁃ It’s often in response to low mood or depression
⁃ It’s often relentless.
⁃ It involves feeling hopeless about the future
- It usually comes after a significant event in someone’s life; ie. a chronic diagnosis, change in role, loss of a loved one, financial hardships etc.
⁃ It feels like the only way out.
⁃ The thoughts may convince the person that they are a burden to others and if they aren’t around anymore others will be “better off” without them.
The emotional pain and suffering can be so overwhelming that suicide seems like the only way to end the suffering.
But suicide is not the answer.
There is always hope.
There is hope in God and the promises He has for us. There is hope that the next medication, therapy, or treatment will make the difference. There is hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
What can we do to help those experiencing suicidal thoughts?
1) Take it seriously. When someone tells you they are feeling hopeless and their mind is plagued by suicidal thoughts, don’t fluff it off. Don’t assume that they wouldn’t actually do something to hurt themselves or end their life. You are not living inside of their body, you don’t know the struggles they are going through. Take it seriously and offer to help.
2) Ask them if there are concerned for their safety right now. Do they have an immediate plan to end their life? Have they started preparing to end their life (ie. giving things away, preparing a means to hurt themselves, writing a note etc.)? If the answer is yes to any of these questions or if your gut is telling you that something is off, call 911, COAST (for Niagara residents 1-866-550-5205) or if they are willing and you feel it is safe to do so take them to the hospital. They need immediate help that cannot wait.
3) If they do not have an immediate suicide plan encourage them to see their family doctor and connect with a mental health agency where they can receive help in managing their thoughts. Just because they don’t have an immediate plan doesn’t mean there is no risk. They may need help to connect to services. So call with them to make an appointment. COAST (1-866-550-5205) will provide mental health services that are available in the region. If you are from outside of Niagara, you can call 211 and the operator will tell you mental health services in your area. If they already have a mental health worker/therapist or psychiatrist, help them make the phone call to them and set up an appointment as soon as possible.
4) Thank them for telling someone. This is the most important thing they could ever do. Acknowledge that it isn’t easy for them to tell someone but you are so thankful they told you. Tell them there is hope and you will help them get connected to a professional that can assess them and work with them to ensure they are safe and treat their symptoms.
Before I wrap this blog up I want to take a moment to acknowledge anyone who has been impacted by suicide. Know that you are not alone. Most people know someone who has ended their life whether it be a childhood friend, teacher, family member, co-worker, or celebrity that you once looked up to. As you know, their death leaves a gaping hole in your heart that feels like it will never completely heal. Know that it is not your fault. We will never fully understand why it happened, and there is nothing you can do about it. That is, except to think about them with compassion and start the process of forgiving them. It’s normal to feel angry and betrayed. But know that they were not in the right state of mind when they chose to end their life. God made us with an innate desire to live and survive. From a very early age we are afraid of so many things because our brain identifies things as a threat to our survival. When our brain stops valuing our survival there is something wrong and we need to reach out to other people to help us think logically again.
Thank you for reading this blog today. I hope you find it helpful in understanding suicide and what to do about it.
Isaiah 41:10: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Romans 8:38-39: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.