by Thomas, age 14
I believe most people think it’s good to prevent suicidal thoughts before they actually happen. But I think the best way to prevent suicide is if you see someone that is obviously showing signs of being sad or having a bad day, talk to them and console them.
Let me tell you about an experience I have had with someone with suicidal thoughts who is also a suicide survivor.
I myself was having a bad year at school. It was so bad, my parents decided to put me in a different school because of the bullying and harassment that I experienced. My friend, whom I will call “Jane” for privacy reasons, had also been bullied and harassed since fifth grade. Every day, she faced the burden of being bullied and then leaving to go to the homeless shelter she called home. The stress on her was so much that she had multiple suicide attempts within rapid succession and visits to the crisis center. She got very little support from the school and crisis center staff. She also felt that her mother and doctors did not give her the therapeutic support that she needed outside of school. Consequently, more recently, she wound up in the crisis center yet again.
One day, she asked to come over my house after school so she could avoid running into the bullies. We were in the kitchen talking and I was cooking and making dinner for her and my family. I was at the stove when she picked up a kitchen knife and put it to her wrist. Luckily, I was able to grab the knife out of her hand and prevented her from breaking her skin. She wanted me to keep this a secret. I never told any other student, but I told my mother and the school counselor. The next day I was concerned because she did not come to school. I spent the whole day looking for her. Finally, the school counselor called her mother who confirmed she was home that day and safe. I think because I showed concern, Jane felt like someone cared.
Personally, I think there is a fine balance you should strike with someone who is suicidal. If you undertreat someone, there is a risk that they will commit suicide. If you over treat someone, you make them feel a loss of control. But if you show concern by sending texts, making phone calls, or having other people call on your behalf (sometimes people aren’t comfortable negotiating with someone who is suicidal), it lets the person know you care.
In the “How and why 5 steps” webpage, it says “after your initial contact with a person experiencing thoughts of suicide, and after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow-up with them to see how they’re doing. Leave a message, send a text, or give them a call.” As they say in the article, “This type of contact can continue to increase their feelings of connectedness and share your ongoing support.”
Here is a video that I think is a really good explanation of what I am trying to say. You need to be able to say something, but you have to know how to say it. And saying something is better than saying nothing at all.
Suicide and drug addiction are the only diseases of an organ that we blame the person for. But just like the heart is an organ, the brain is as well. So why do we grieve and say “Why did it have to be them?”, when someone dies of cancer, and when someone dies of suicide, we say “What a sick, sick, person.” There is a stigma against people who are suicidal. The stigma doesn’t help the cause. We need to stop blaming the person for their disease, because the brain is an organ that can fail at any point just like any other organ.
Here is a link to a video of someone within the one percent of people who have jumped off the Golden Gate bridge and survived. He explains this topic in a way that no one but a suicide survivor can. You can have all the therapists you want explain how a person feels at that point in their life, but the only way to truly know is to have an actual survivor explain.
It is important to take everyone’s concerns seriously, because you never know what they are going through. But make sure you let them feel like they are still in control.
In the time it took me to write this essay, 10 people have committed suicide, and 60 people in their family have been affected by it. Visit www.dosomething.org to learn more.