Suicide survivors: Day of healing and support

You’ve noticed some things. Or maybe you haven’t but someone else has, and they brought it to your attention. You have never had to deal with such a thing before. It was just a word that you had heard, that you thought only happened in far off places. Nobody you know would ever attempt to take their own life.

The reality is that it happens everywhere, even where it is not commonly discussed. The “taboo” subject reportedly affected the 47,173 Americans who died by suicide in 2017. It also affected countless numbers of people who were affected by those deaths, who had to find ways to cope with the loss of their father, mother, son, daughter, sister, brother, grandparent, a fellow student.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) explains that in 1999 a U.S. Senator, Harry Reid, kicked off International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day with a resolution to the Senate that later was designated Survivor Day by U.S. Congress. Reid’s father died from suicide. The intent of the day was to help with healing and support of the people who have been affected by suicide. The observation is always on the Saturday before Thanksgiving because the holidays are so hard for suicide loss survivors. Today is Survivor Day.

There is no one cause of suicide. Often it occurs when the stressors of a person’s life exceed their ability to cope, days of the worst hopelessness and despair. Often misdiagnosed or untreated depression is involved. Anxiety, depression, or substance abuse problems increase the risk. Sometimes serious physical health conditions play a large part in attempting suicide. Bullying, harassment, unemployment or relationship problems may be involved. Only the one who is suffering knows how deep the pit of despair is.

How can you help your friend when you suspect his or her problems are overwhelming them? Have an honest conversation with them. You might fear that if you bring up the subject it will plant the seed, something they hadn’t considered before.  But you need not worry about that. They already have. The AFSP recommends:

– Talk to them in private.

– Listen to their story.

– Tell them you care about them.

– Ask directly if they are thinking about suicide.

– Encourage them to seek treatment or to contact their doctor or therapist.

– Avoid debating the value of life, minimizing their problems or giving advice.

There was a time when people didn’t talk about suicide. In 2012, 33,000 Americans died of suicide each year between 2001 and 2009. In 2017, suicide was the 6thleading cause of death in the U.S. and the number of suicide deaths was 47,173. In 2017 there were an estimated 1,400,000 suicide attempts. The suicide rate in 2017 was 14 per 100,000 individuals, men 3.54 times more often than women. The average number of suicides was 129 per day.

Your friend who has lost someone to suicide needs your support. That friend needs to know that you are there for them now, and you will be there when they need you. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know what to say, but I am here for you.” It is OK to talk about the event if your friend brings it up, if they need to talk about it. There may not be anything for you to say, but you can listen. Don’t talk about it being a selfish choice or a sin, weakness or lack of faith, love or strength. Don’t blame anyone. But help if you can. Your friend needs your willingness to be there to support them so they can heal.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org.


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