Hope. As therapists, we are taught that people considering suicide have momentarily lost awareness that what is today will not be always and what was yesterday will not be tomorrow. They struggle to identify another feasible alternative and this is the state we call 'hopelessness.' It is in that moment that it can become impossible to see, what we all point out after the fact, as obvious other solutions. Although this sense of hopelessness can be brief, it can have irreparable consequences. Therefore, it is our job as a community to understand signs of potential suicidal action and actively seek out those at risk; unyielding in our efforts to have resources and outlets for people to discuss their thoughts and feelings freely. Additionally, we have to stop acting like a thought of ending your life is shameful, selfish, too intense or weak. We have to let people know we can explore thoughts of death, dying and suicide without quickly calling the police or running away from it, or freaking out when someone says anything that smacks of suicide. People need to talk about it and they aren't going to talk about it if they are afraid you will lock them up or have a breakdown. In addition, know less traditional signs of suicide such as elevated mood; many suicides occur during an upswing of physical energy or during a seemingly "better" moments especially those taking medication for depression or excessive gift giving; people can often spend more freely when they are have a plan to end their life.
And, yes, suicide is contagious, statistically contagious. Any young person who sees Robin Williams decision may think that it doesn't get better, that they are going to be 63 and still feeling this way. Or, someone who thinks that Robin Williams had so much going for him, what chance do I have. So, what can you do?
Ask. Ask someone you're worried about, or someone you're not worried about., if they are having thoughts about ending their life and assure them you won't freak out and don't freak out no matter what the answer! No one has ever become suicidal because you asked them if they have been thinking about ending their life, but people have ended their life and no one asked them whether they were thinking about it or not. Many people have thoughts of ending their life, this does not mean they will kill themselves. Having a conversation about suicide doesn't make suicide happen. And, sometimes just asking can have profound benefits. Read about suicide, learn about how to talk with someone expressing these thoughts, look into brief risk assessment (see below). Research consistently shows that just knowing someone was thinking about you, and was out there, significantly improved the emotional/psychological well being and functioning of those considering suicide. It is imperative that we stop being afraid of suicide and start talking about it as part of our humanity.
At that moment when hope is missing from the person's view, their best chance is borrowing yours for a little while.
For more information about learning a quick suicide risk assessment known as SLAP DIRT, see the attached link. Knowing S.L.A.P D.I.R.T does NOT make you an expert on risk assessment, but it can help you determine a more reasonable response to the people, friends or family who might endorse some suicidal ideation and remember to always keep your own safety paramount: http://counselingoneanother.com/2013/04/10/slap-dirt-suicide-assessment-2/
#RIPRobinWilliams #depression #gethelp #suicide #therapy
- Christine D. Fazio, MA
212-343-7008 x 6