It’s interesting that the recent deaths by suicide of two very public people has caused a flurry of concern and education and disbelief. I sit, both metaphorically and personally, on the other side of the room, the chair, or the couch. As a clinical social worker who has done “the work” for over 35 years, I know how difficult it is for a client to initially pick up the phone, tell a stranger that they need some help, and then follow through with coming to terms with one’s own emotions, and figuring out next steps. It is a moment that defines not wanting help and realizing you need help. That being said, there is a long bridge between feeling blue and feeling so depressed and in such pain, that the only relief is imagining no more pain, and the thought that the only choice is suicide. Depression is often intractable. Many folks work hard at masking it, because they see themselves as not being able to ask for help or not wanting to appear weak or anything but what their friends and family know them to be. It is a lonely place.
As a therapist watching the person in front of me struggle is continually trying to keep them engaged and knowing when they are not safe from themselves. I often will let them know that we are working together and that they are not alone. Happiness is never guaranteed, but if you are not safe, happiness is often elusive. Therapists don’t forget their clients between sessions. We become someone who you let in and begin to trust. Yet, there are many more folks, who never make the call and we don’t know who they are. That is what provokes fear when someone who seems like “they have it all”, ends their life. We only know what they allow us to see, and that is not just through their celebrity status. We personalize relationships that don’t exist. This then begs the issue, what should any of us do and what should we pay attention to. Even the best of therapists can’t see things because we can’t read minds.
Some thoughts about being concerned about someone…changes in appearance or in some cases disappearance may raise your worry factor. If someone who is usually out and about is no longer available or seems to avoid you, something may be going on. If they seem to have changes in their appearance or seem to be gaining or losing weight, this could be another indicator. When they seem do be doing things you never saw them do and are taking risks out of the norm, this too, might be a sign. Unfortunately, our capacity to really know that someone is truly struggling is compromised by not wanting to interfere at times or by not thinking that this person, your person, is having more than the blues. Sometimes, just saying you are worried about them to them is the first step to inviting them to confide in you. We, humans, are so complex, and we are all so busy with our own lives, that we may not realize that someone is in such pain. We expect that being happy is something we all can discover, until someone reminds us that they couldn’t find it.
#suicideawareness #suicideprevention National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)