Outside my room, the sun was shining. In the distance, I heard the voices of children who were playing. Inside my room, I sat on the floor in my room. The outside world was hidden behind a gray veil. I just could not continue living with this pain anymore. It was unbearable. I had a knife. I knew how to cut my wrist. Time passed by endlessly slow. Life did not matter anymore. I did not want to live anymore. I faced my dark night of the soul – I wanted to die by suicide.
The ringing of the phone penetrated the heavy silence in my room. I could not answer. I could not move. How are you? How about going for a walk one day? I heard my friend’s voice on my voice box. His voice sounded genuine. He sounded caring. The phone call evoked a spark of doubt. Was suicide really the only option? Was there maybe somebody who cared for me? It took me another night until I decided that I would give it a try. Maybe another life was possible? Maybe there was a reason for living? I did not know but I wanted to find it out. As a result, I returned his call and we went for many walks together. My life started to change in tiny steps over the following years.
I learned the following lessons about suicide:
Suicide is associated with tormenting pain.
I became suicidal because I felt an excruciated pain in my soul as a result of the abuse I had experienced as a child. I do not know whether you have experienced abuse or not, but I felt a tremendous pain while having to accept the dark truth of my childhood. It wasn’t a question of being weak or strong, I just did not know how to be alive while feeling this incredible pain. Dr. Edwin Shneidman described it with the very accurate term “psychache” (Dozois, 2015). Have you ever felt a pain like this? I certainly have and, luckily enough, I was able to transform it over the years. However, I still do not know how profound other people experience their pain and how detrimental it is for them. Therefore, I do not judge them.
Stigma propels suicide.
I went to work every morning, and nobody had a clue what was going on within me. It was impossible for me to talk to them. Stigma made it impossible to reach out for them because it shamed me. As a result, my voice was silent and I could not see any option to get for help. However, no matter how much stigma blamed me, it did not change my suicidal ideations. It rather pushed me towards it by disconnecting me from people.
Real connection keeps alive.
People who searched for a true connection with me kept me alive. They didn’t judge, they did not look down on me, and they did not tell me what I was supposed to feel. They showed genuine care and I felt their empathy. These connections helped me discover a reason for living and find the strength within me to face my pain. I don’t know if I were alive today without my friend’s phone call. He taught me that the best suicide prevention is a genuine connection.
Supporting somebody who is thinking about suicide
Years later, I became the emergency contact for a friend who lived with depression and was thinking about suicide. When her symptoms worsened, she used to ask me whether I would take care of her cat if she were to die. When I heard this warning sign, I asked her whether she was thinking about suicide. We talked about suicide. She explained her plans. She expressed her her pain. I felt with her and told her that I cared for and that I was concerned about her. I encouraged her to ask for professional help. It wasn’t an easy journey. There was no fast track solution.
At times, I felt scared that I would receive a message that she had died by suicide. I knew I could be there for her, but, ultimately, I couldn’t save her. I knew enough people who had died by suicide – my grandfather was among them. The line between life and death is fragile. After several months, my friend got help and recovered.
Talking about suicide
Suicide is a difficult topic to talk about, and it is easier to deny it. It is hard to face the reality that people we love are thinking about suicide. However, denial, stigma and silence will not make suicide go away. As a community, we need to challenge stigma. We can shame people who are suicidal or we can be there for them. Everybody has the choice to give empathy and compassion to people who are thinking about suicide. The only question is which choice we make. It is essential that we talk about it, even if we do not feel comfortable doing so. The more we can give people a safe space to share their suicide story, the better we can support them. This way each one of us can make a difference.
I have initiated the community development initiative “Let’s Talk About Suicide.” Our vision is to create a community that is free of stigma.
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Do you need help concerning suicide?
If you are currently thinking about suicide or if you want to support somebody who is thinking about suicide, please reach out for help. The following web page gives you an overview about the local crisis centres all over Canada:
Do you have more questions?
I would love to hear from you. Please send me a message.
Dozois, D. J. A. (2015). Abnormal Psychology. Don Mills, ON: Pearson Canada Inc.