3 Minutes – Suicide the best kept secret – Prevention

Recently I watched Our Silent Emergency by Roman Kemp (young UK media celebrity) who recently lost his best friend to suicide. While it focuses on what can be done to get younger males to start talking about their struggles amidst increasing rates of suicide, I found it helpful. I lost my daughter to suicide in 2005.

Regardless of age, gender or circumstances, mental health problems remain shrouded in secrecy and stigma. It’s been this way for years. I’m not sure what will ever change this regardless that we are talking more openly about the subject. It was no different when my daughter died .

The tragedy is that when a young person dies by suicide, it leaves a traumatic impact on the best friend(s) left behind. They seldom ever get over it. The guilt and regret can haunt them well into their older years. Just like loving family members believe they were responsible in some way for any family member’s suicide, friends believe they should have saved their best bud from dying. My daughter’s best friend struggled with these same feelings. Specifically, not confiding in us the best kept secret my daughter shared with her. Which was her wish to die.

Photo by Chris Yang on Unsplash

Suicide the best kept secret

One statement by Roman that struck me poignantly in his documentary was that it would only have taken him 3 minutes to run to his friend’s house. He could have been there. He should have been there for his buddy. And he would have been there if only he’d known his friend was in trouble. A guy who was the life of the party but had obviously kept his troubles hidden from everyone.

But then, who truly knows when anyone intends to die? Suicide really is the best kept secret. It doesn’t matter who is at risk.

The other thing that caught my attention was how much we hesitate to dig further into finding out how “okay” our loved ones really are. While some females may be more willing to discuss their needs than males, nobody’s talking much about suicide. If they were there wouldn’t be so many deaths.

The number one reason people choose suicide

The number one reason people choose suicide is because they believe they are a burden to their loved ones. Hearing this in the documentary helped me let go of some of the searching I’ve been doing for years. Feeling desperate to know why my daughter chose to die. This was what she believed too.

Prior to discovering this after her death, the thought never crossed my mind that my child thought she was a burden to us. I assumed she knew we would be there for her no matter what. As a mom, it makes me feel less inadequate and more the same as millions of other parents who couldn’t have done any more to prove this was simply not true. Having said this, it’s clear all survivors missed the chance to talk with our kids, friends and other loved ones about their mental health and other struggles.

Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

Why we don’t talk about suicide

Talking about our problems helps to squash all the negative things we tell ourselves that simply aren’t true. False stories ramp up in our heads and sometimes force us to make terrible decisions. But in the end, they always are just our stories. We can never presume to know what anyone else is really thinking.

One reason why we don’t talk about suicide is because we cannot fathom that anyone we love would want to kill themself. But people of all ages do kill themselves. Every day! We need to start accepting this as a fact. We are ALL vulnerable to a single moment that could compel us to make an irreversible decision. One that creates lasting emotional damage to all survivors.

3 minutes

It would have taken Roman only 3 minutes to reach his friend’s house to check on him. It only took about 3 minutes of the slightly more than twenty-two years of life my daughter had lived for it to be wiped out. Minutes I’ve thought long and hard about over the last sixteen years. Trying to end my suffering that’s been exceptionally hard to overcome.

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

What we can do to better support each other in our mental health needs:

  1. Ask twice. When we ask someone how they are, and they reply “okay”, ask again. People often reveal how they are really feeling after being asked more than once.
  2. Talk. Confide in someone we trust about how we are feeling and what we are thinking. It can change our story.
  3. Listen. Listening without judgement to what our loved ones and friends are going through can literally save lives.
  4. Fur babies. Someone interviewed in this documentary who had survived a suicide attempt found talking to his dog served the same purpose as talking to a human. Animals bring us renewed hope and optimism with their unconditional love. If you don’t have a living pet, a stuffed animal works just as well.
  5. Honesty. While there is still stigma attached to mental health issues and it is difficult admitting we have a problem, being honest with ourselves and our closest loved ones about our mental health can set us on our path to healing.
For newly bereaved parents

For other support, books and resources related to grief, suicide and healing visit vonnesolis.com.

“Emotional Charity” – We can all afford to give

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how often we are called to act with more kindness and sensitivity towards others when we don’t really feel like it. Yet, the moment we become aware that we can respond to any situation in a more positive way, is the moment we can’t turn our back on trying to be kinder, gentler people. With ourselves and each other. I say trying because it can be difficult wanting to be nice sometimes.

We can change the way we treat others

While it’s vitally important we treat ourselves with kindness and gentleness to heal, this post is more about how we can change the way we treat others to alleviate any tension we all face in our relationships. In normal times when we are regularly challenged to juggle our competing emotions with others, the pandemic has ramped them up. Nearly every other news article is about how the pandemic is affecting us. Millions of people are facing a variety of challenging situations.

There’s been a noticeable increase in mental health issues, divorce, people struggling with isolation, loss, illness and a host of other problems. It’s a whole other level to manage our emotions in more trying times. People are frustrated. Situations are unpredictable. For many life feels scary. We all deserve to feel supported by each other and in particular, by the people who surround us. Which is where emotional charity comes in.

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

What is emotional charity?

Emotional charity is when we decide to be kinder, gentler people with others. Which isn’t a whole lot different than being able to feel compassion for what anyone is going through. Demonstrating emotional charity happens when we are willing to be the first to forgive. When we can accept where others are in their life and we don’t expect anything from them. Which helps us become more compassionate human beings.

While we can choose to be emotionally charitable just by deciding to be nice, the truth is that being nice is a challenge for many people. As a long-term sufferer, I can easily feel the suffering of others. At the same time, I know how difficult it can be to want to be nice to others. Especially, our nearest and dearest.

Behind every act of meanness is someone in pain

Behind every act of meanness is someone in pain. While it’s tempting to run from conflict rather than face it head on, responding to someone in pain with gentleness and kindness is more helpful. We can end all conflict in our relationships by understanding there’s always a deeper reason for anyone’s outburst, silence or misery.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Compassion is a powerful emotion for healing

While our brains haven’t developed to allow us to always feel compassion for others, when we can feel it and are on the receiving end of someone else’s care, we can start to heal. In fact, compassion is one of the most powerful emotions for healing

Anything we experience as trauma has a profound impact on our body, nervous system and brain. Physical sensations include a racing heart, rapid breathing, body rigidity. Emotionally, we can’t connect with others. We feel isolated, angry and sometimes rage. Compassion helps to ease these symptoms. (To read more about compassion related to trauma and PTSD click here.)

Understanding another person’s situation is effective

Research has shown that subjectively understanding another person’s situation is highly effective for our healing. For any one of us, deciding to be more emotionally charitable is essential to helping each other get through the trying times.

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash


We don’t have to be severely traumatized or suffering to benefit from the compassion of others. Being more understanding of anyone’s situation is a significant part in all of us contributing to the creation of a more inclusive, tolerant, caring society.


To be more emotionally charitable:

  1. Use a gentle tone of voice when responding to someone acting out.
  2. Ask your loved one how they are REALLY feeling (like you mean it and have the time to listen).
  3. Offer your loved one specific support rather than tell them to call you if they need anything.

We still have a long way to go to get more comfortable airing our mental and emotional discomforts without feeling any stigma. However, if there is something positive about the pandemic, it’s that it is allowing us to express these and some of our other vulnerabilities more frequently and in an open, inclusive way. Which is a great thing to help bring about the longer-term changes that we all need.

To learn more about my latest publication:

Available globally


For more about my other books and online support vonnesolis.com.

TEN TIPS: HOW TO TALK TO THE BEREAVED

I’ve been dealing for years with this issue of people not knowing how to talk to me once they find out I’m a bereaved mom. Given it’s been over fifteen years now, it’s getting a bit monotonous. And I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. There are plenty of other bereaved parents who struggle with the same reactions I get once people find out I’ve lost a child. In fact, I’m certain many bereaved people routinely experience the discomfort of those with whom they have shared their loss, no matter who has died. People in general, just don’t know how to talk to the bereaved.

While it’s rare for me to talk about my daughter with just anyone, it isn’t because I don’t want to. It’s because I learned early in my bereavement that I had to take extreme care in choosing who to share my loss with simply because of the overwhelmingly reactions I got when people found out I’d lost a child. (Usually this was in response to them asking me how many children I had). All of them wanted to know how she had died, which only made their discomfort even worse because it was a suicide.

Continue reading “TEN TIPS: HOW TO TALK TO THE BEREAVED”

THE POWER OF RELIEF

When I first became bereaved in 2005, after the suicide of my daughter, I felt confused and distrustful of everything. My entire world had fallen apart. I had no idea how I would ever live without my child and was terrified something else really bad would happen to my family. I couldn’t imagine what I could ever do again that would feel worthwhile. I felt isolated and different from everyone else and in pain so extreme, I didn’t think I could survive it. I felt powerless. There was no relief in sight.

But I did survive. More importantly, I’m starting to truly live again through a healing process I can’t wait to share with others.

Continue reading “THE POWER OF RELIEF”

Are You Stuck in the Past and Want More for Your Life?

Any life event that has uprooted you in some way may be keeping you stuck in pain. This could be from a childhood trauma or as an adult, the loss of a loved one, relationship, job, money, health, lifestyle or friends. Pain is pain, no matter where it comes from. It can feel just as devastating for everyone, dependent on what we are here to experience.

Continue reading “Are You Stuck in the Past and Want More for Your Life?”

The Dark Web: Why are we too afraid to talk to our kids about suicide?

A few days ago, I came across this article that shockingly (for me, anyway) told the story of a young Norwegian woman who tracks Instagram’s dark web for anyone at risk of attempting suicide. This young watcher (she is only twenty-two) scrolls through her Instagram feed looking for signs of imminent suicide attempts on the more than 450 accounts she’s been given permission to follow. She intervenes when she believes it necessary to do so based on the type of content posted. Despite not being formally trained in mental healthcare, she alerts the police and ambulance services requesting them (sometimes pleading with them) to further investigate those individuals she identifies as critically at risk of suicide. Some of these professionals don’t always take her claims seriously. Sometimes lives are lost.

Continue reading “The Dark Web: Why are we too afraid to talk to our kids about suicide?”

Recognizing PTSD – Could Power Pave the Way?

Here’s an interesting news story. After “mysteriously vanishing from the spotlight” two years ago, RCMP Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound, a twenty-two-year veteran of the RCMP and for six years, the “public face” of the integrated homicide investigation team (IHIT) in Metro Vancouver, is emerging as the RCMP’s new face of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here’s my take on the story. Is she really? Or, is Pound the chosen one to finally get the media’s attention (and stay there) to highlight just how broken the system is when it comes to the RCMP providing support and resources to its mentally injured members? Here’s part of her story.

Continue reading “Recognizing PTSD – Could Power Pave the Way?”

Surviving Suicide – Finding Life Again

I’ve just returned from a month-long mini round-the-world trip that took me and my husband to Asia, Indonesia and Europe. Now, while most people who love to travel would probably have been excited planning, counting down the days to departure and actually travelling, I found myself, as always, in a state of neutrality more than I did excitement. More than neutrality, it is the state that anyone who lives with PTSD struggles with, not having the ability to feel excited about much of anything (which as an aside, is different from being able to feel gratitude). As such, I honestly could not rouse myself to feel anything more than hopeful that all would go well on each leg of the trip (which it did) and as much excitement as I could feel reuniting with our son in various locations for some quality time together. If anyone can drum up excitement in me, it’s my son!

Continue reading “Surviving Suicide – Finding Life Again”

Surviving versus Living – What’s the difference?

It is interesting that we are commonly known to survive loss. We are thought of in our grief as surviving loved ones. We are called suicide survivors after losing a loved one to suicide. But what it means to truly survive loss is not well understood or even talked about at all. It’s just a word that’s been assigned to the bereaved.

The literal meaning of the word “survive” is to remain alive after the death of someone or the cessation of something under adverse or unusual circumstances. And remaining alive versus living are two very different things. I’m sure everyone would agree that losing a child is the least favourable circumstance to be in and is unusual and adverse in every way imaginable. For most if not all bereaved parents, surviving their child’s death is about the only thing they can do. But it’s also true that many grievers in general simply remain alive without much or any feeling at all after losing a love of their life. Without hope and loss of direction, some people may never feel anything again.

Continue reading “Surviving versus Living – What’s the difference?”

PTSD: How it Impacts Relationships and What You Need to Manage Them

As a bereaved mom of a daughter who died by suicide in 2005, I have long been a proponent of change in how we view difficult loss and grief in our culture and the importance of understanding trauma and PTSD associated with certain types of loss. Not only for grievers, but everybody supporting them through their grief process.

It’s not only child loss that can traumatize people, but keeping it to bereaved parents for a moment, I am certain there isn’t one mom or dad out there who hasn’t been traumatized by the loss of their child, no matter the cause of death. They may even have PTSD and not know it. Little to no information is available on the topic. Despite the lack of information on the risk of PTSD for bereaved parents, it is encouraging to see that a quick internet search pops up a number of articles and studies done on PTSD in parents coping with a critically ill child, which is progress. (As an aside, there is even research for traffic accident victims who have PTSD). I remain astounded at the apparent lack of information and interest to take up this cause for the grieving.

Read more