With the suicide of renowned chef and TV presence Anthony Bourdain last month, more attention has been paid to the issue of suicide in the United States. There has been some recognition that suicide, and suicide prevention, needs to be understood better. It follows that a closer understanding of depression is also called for.
One thing I've learned, from my years of working with clients who considered suicide, and with those who had attempted it in the past, is that a suicidal crisis often indicates forthcoming growth and change. A suicidal person sees no hope or redeeming possibilities but it's usually because they still use their habitual frames of reference. Abandoning these frames can be terrifying and demoralizing, often to the point that it seems there can be no life worth living without them. Something does need to die, but it's not necessarily the person. Rather, it's some of their old ways, their old mentality: pain and despair can be signs showing they don't work anymore.
Pain and despair are messengers asking to be heard and understood. Suicide can be an attempt to avoid these messengers. I feel a key approach to suicide prevention is helping people understand that pain and despair are part of their own inner communication. We've all had false friends before: people who say nice flattering things and comfort us while they secretly try to harm us. What if pain and despair were false enemies? Apparently harmful but actually supportive and encouraging once embraced.
Hopefully, the dialog around suicide will expand to include these underlying issues and concerns.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
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