I have written a lot about what to do before, during and after a suicide attempt. I guess that’s because the people who read my work are the survivors and the loved ones, mostly, of suicide survivors.
But there’s a very underserved community in conjunction with suicide and that is the loved ones left behind by suicide. They are suicide survivors too. These people are left with a void. These people are left with a hole in their hearts and a hole in the information that’s available. But there are things I think you should know if your loved one commits suicide.
I get asked lots of questions, but even more questions are silently asked of Google and one of those is, “Is something wrong with you if you think of killing yourself?” The question as to whether something is “wrong” with you if you think suicidal thoughts often leads people to this blog so I thought it was important to address the question.
Thinking of Killing Yourself
I actually think the odd thought of suicide is not unusual. A friend once told me that he was unable to take an acetaminophen without thinking of the number it would take to kill him. This particular friend isn’t remotely suicidal but it’s just one of those thoughts that floats through his mind. I don’t think it means anything, per se, other than the fact that his mind is pretty active.
Of course, there are thoughts of killing yourself and there are thoughts of killing yourself.
Recently I wrote about why people with a mental illness shouldn’t be denied access to guns. My argument is, essentially, that it is a violation of their rights to judge the mentally ill based on a medical diagnosis and, in this society, we judge people based on what they do and not their medical conditions.
Some of the commenters on this post brought up the fact that with access to weapons, a person with a mental illness may be more likely to commit suicide. For example, about half of all people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide and certainly, an attempted suicide with a gun is very likely to be a completed suicide.
However, this doesn’t change my opinion one bit. While I have written and written about suicide and suicide attempts and I have said that, as a society, we should aim for zero suicides, that does not mean that we should violate people’s rights to do it.
OK, I understand that a suicide attempt is not a suicide attempt if the end desire is not death, but stick with me here, I have a point.
Believe it or not, I get a lot of searches on this site by people searching for ways to attempt suicide and not die (their words). And while many people may find this unbelievable, I don’t actually think it’s all that uncommon. I think many people make suicide attempts that are less about death and more about screaming for help.
There are frequent reports that of the people who survive suicide attempts, they realized sometime after the pills, or the gun, or the jump, they didn’t want to die. This is obvious. No one wants to die. People who attempt suicide don’t want to die. They want to be out of pain.