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.

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.

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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.

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THE GAME-CHANGER – 988 SUICIDE HOTLINE!

Now, I realize that suicide is not a topic most people openly want to talk about. But sometimes we have to. I guarantee that everyone knows someone who has died by suicide, if they haven’t experienced it in their own family or close circle. Suicide is a global crisis that every country admits to, but doesn’t know how to solve.

As a mom of a daughter who died by suicide in 2005, I was thrilled to recently learn that a 9-8-8 national suicide hotline number has been proposed for Canada. I remain hopeful the motion makes it before Parliament for a vote within weeks, and that it is approved and turned into law within the next two years. I agree with mental health professionals and advocates that the hotline will be a game-changer for Canada. It will transform the way we think and talk about suicide and improve support for those at risk who call in. I am certain it will save lives. People just have to call!

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Lost Your Power? Take Back You!

I’ve been away from blogging for a little while as I find myself going through a somewhat unexpected transformation. I say unexpected because most of my adult life I’ve thrown myself into learning and growth that has always produced positive change. I’m used to it. However, coming off my hardest challenge to date, which has been the suicide of my daughter in 2005, I can admit it’s taken a lot to drum up the energy to go after life with the zest I once had. I no longer always have the motivation or even the physical capability as a bereaved parent to keep up with the former me (which still surprises me, though it shouldn’t).

I’ve found it especially hard to have a reason to keep moving forward and try new things to create a better version of myself that everyone can benefit from. Including me. Which is true for all of us. It’s a win-win for everyone the more we can commit to learning and growing to improve the current version of ourselves.

Now, while all this may sound like a lot of navel gazing, it’s also true that we can’t be of any real value to others if we can’t first find value in ourselves. However, reaching the point where we want to tap into our worth and reclaim our inner power can be challenging, depending on the adversity we are trying to overcome. It can also be frustrating that what one person may succeed at beating in life, we may never.

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Death – Do we choose our time to go?

Wow, these past few days, news outlets have been reporting the deaths of several high-profile people from suicide, accident and illness. Deaths that have included people young and older, but none that would have been expected because they were a suicide, weird accident or someone we would consider way too young to be dying from disease or illness.

My spiritual practice over a span of four decades has taught me (and millions of others) that we choose our manner and time of death. While there can be different exit points throughout our life, it is the final one we must respect as what any person chooses as the way and time that is right for them to end their physical existence on this planet. At any age.

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Death and the Soul

I have been dedicated to a spiritual practice for nearly forty years. Figuring out (at least trying to) decades of life lessons has taught me to appreciate our physical existence as so much more than what we can only appreciate as tangible experiences. In fact, I’d suggest it is more painful to confine ourselves only to thinking about physical existence as just that and nothing more. There has to be more.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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