September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. Despite science supporting a neurobiological basis for mental illness, suicide is still shrouded by stigma. It’s a taboo subject – the prevailing attitude still seems to be that death by suicide is shameful and sinful.
Suicide is a death like no other. The feelings of guilt, confusion and emotional turmoil are in many ways unique to survivors of suicide.
For those who have heard my story and have shifted uncomfortably, not knowing what to say, I understand. Suicide is a very difficult topic.
I have lost three family members to suicide over the past 15 years. The most recent was my father in 2014. The guilt that comes with losing someone to suicide is tremendous. As someone who has worked in the mental health field, I was ashamed that I didn’t see the immediate signs, and that I wasn’t there to intervene.
The mental health of individuals in this country is compromised more than we know and often through no fault of their own, leading to suicide attempts and deaths.
This means the survivors—the loved ones who are left behind—are suffering in the wake of those losses.
What I have found is that eventually, you find peace in the unknown. My questions will never be answered. I will never know what my loved ones were thinking or feeling in the moments before they died. I will never know if there is anything that I could have done to prevent the outcome. I will never know or understand the depth of the pain they felt. What I do know, is that I have been given the opportunity to discuss a topic that has been silenced. I can try to help others process and work through their own grief.
I was able to work through my grief and find some healing through a group called Survivors of Suicide Loss. Find a support group near you.
If a person says they are considering suicide:
- Take the person seriously.
- Stay with them.
- Help them remove lethal means.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7.
- Escort them to mental health services or an emergency room.
Kris Stewart is an advocate at Disability Rights Arkansas. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.