Every life touches so many other lives. Our decisions and actions impact others in ways we can only imagine. We sometimes fail to recognize this and assume that our choices will be of little or no consequence to those around us. We’re wrong.
Such assumptions are often made by the depressed person who is considering suicide. Clinical depression is very painful, drastically different from those common, normal times when we feel sad or down. I have heard patients, who suffer with both chronic physical pain and depression, say that the depression is the more painful illness. The thought of continuing to live with such pain often seems unbearable. Dying seems peaceful, an end to the pain. It causes the victim to feel that their current state is permanent, and the thought of years of such existence seems unthinkable. The victim begins to think of a way out.
This illness also tends to isolate. The depressed person tends to withdraw from others. He will often turn down invitations to social activities, preferring to be alone, and often assuming that he won’t be good company. The illness makes the person tend to focus internally, which makes him feel even more separate from everyone else. He feels that he is unimportant, or that he doesn’t belong in this life. Depression distorts the victim’s perception regarding social and family relationships. Those perceptions are wrong.
Depression also causes the victim to feel very self-critical. The person often perceives herself to be inadequate, defective, unlovable and unimportant. She may feel that she is only a burden to her family or friends. She may perceive that others would be better off without her. She’s so wrong.
The distorted perceptions of depression often prevent the suicidal person from seeing the true impact that suicide would have on those they love. He mistakenly believes that his family, friends, co-workers and neighbors will have their lives disrupted only briefly by attending a funeral, and then will go on about their lives. Such beliefs are very wrong.
Having done psychotherapy for over thirty years, I have seen the impact of suicide on family, friends, and even community members. I have had many instances where family members come in to see me because one of their loved ones committed suicide. They feel confused, angry and sad. Mostly, however, they question themselves. They ask what they could have done to prevent the death. They say things such as, “I should have stopped by to check on her.” “I shouldn’t have complained about …..” “I should have seen this coming, and done something. Why didn’t I do something?” They blame themselves. They are wrong, as well. If they had seen the suicide coming, they would have moved mountains to stop the loved one. They didn’t know.
There is an old saying that, “Suicide doesn’t end the pain. It just passes it on to those you love.” This is so true. When someone expresses the belief that their loved ones will be better off if they commit suicide, I ask them to tell me the name of a loved one. I then ask them to imagine they received a phone call saying that this person had committed suicide. I ask them how they would feel. I ask how much it would effect their life. I point out that their loved one will react exactly the same way if they commit suicide.
If you have a loved one who is clinically depressed, and you fear they may have suicidal thoughts, say something. Ask them if they are considering suicide. You won’t give them the idea or suggest it by asking. Then tell them exactly how their suicide would effect you. They need to know the truth. Such candor may help them see that their choices impact those they love. If you’re depressed and considering suicide, make an appointment with a mental health professional as soon as possible. There is hope and there is help!
Question: Do you have any suggestions to help or support someone who has lost a loved one to suicide?