When I was completing my doctorate, the Clinical Director of my program committed suicide. ￼For a bunch of psychologists committed to being healers, it was an incredibly painful experience. We yearn to lessen suffering. ￼ It was the first large memorial service I ever attended where suicide was openly discussed. As a society, the stigma and secrecy around suicide have not been helpful.
5 Important Facts About Suicide
- Language matters. It is not appropriate to say that somebody committed suicide. Committed suicide is a phrase that comes from the days where it was actually considered a crime or sin. Died by or from suicide is more accurate. Some media corporations have started using more appropriate language around this topic.
- Talking about suicide is crucial. Asking about somebody’s suicidal thoughts will not make them suicidal. In fact the opposite is true; not giving somebody space to talk about it can be dangerous.
- Stop the taboo. Suicide falls within the top 10 causes of death in the United States, and in the top five within certain age ranges. We used to refer to cancer as the C word, now we have more research, treatment plans, and family support. Making suicide a taboo topic discourages individuals and their families from seeking help.
- Three phrases that are never helpful:
At least their pain is over. They are in a better place.￼￼ They seemed to have everything.
Alternatively, people sometimes feel like they have nothing to say or offer, so they avoid the person and / or their family. If you want to help, be solidly present. That includes being available for 3:00 AM phone calls, helping with daily tasks, and being a loving presence. ￼￼￼
- Implying that suicide is selfish is completely inaccurate. Individuals who feel suicidal are in incredible pain
My colleague and officemate, Dr. David Jobes, one of the world’s most eminent researchers on suicidology runs the Suicide Prevention Lab, in Washington, DC. For information, see https://sites.google.com/site/cuajsplab/home
Call or text 988 to reach the 988 Lifeline.