This month, I have been training to answer texts for a crisis hotline aimed at teens. My first shift is tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to helping out teens in crisis. I think this is the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.
Let me tell you a little secret – I’ve battled on and off with suicidal thoughts myself. At times, to the point where I’m honestly afraid that I will kill myself. Almost no one who is suicidal actually wants to die. These people want to live, and they send out signals. They ask for help. Too many people ignore these signals for one reason or another.
Some people have absolutely no empathy for suicide – they feel that if someone wants to die, let them die. After all, isn’t that “Darwinian selection”? What these people fail to see (whether they are willingly blind or not) is that suicidal people are ill. Their perception of reality is often distorted, and they honestly feel that death is the only way out. They need to be reminded of why life is wonderful. They need (and want!) help. Suicide is a tragedy – not only for the individual, but for all the friends and family.
Some people have empathy, but they are squeamish of mental illness and suicide. They are not comfortable talking about such things. And although they might see the signs, they shy away from providing help, often leaving the suicidal person feeling abandoned. I, myself, have felt that way….and it is one of the most painful emotions I can imagine.
And some people would like to help, but they just aren’t able to recognize the signs or they don’t know what they can do.
But we, as a community, can change this. We can educate ourselves about suicide, and learn to encourage friends and family (and even strangers if we’re willing!) to talk to us. Because it’s the people who talk that end up living. There are lots of ways to educate yourself about suicide. For instance, my blog, Resistance is Futile, is going to host an annual Suicide and Mental Illness Awareness theme read in September and October. I will post about suicide and mental illness (hopefully with guest posts too!) and list book reviews from all participants in the theme read (everyone is welcome!). Hopefully, this will spark discussion about how to raise awareness in our community.
Another way to educate ourselves is by taking awareness classes. Several are offered as community classes, but I highly recommend the one that I completed last weekend. The ASIST workshop organized by Living Works. In this two-day workshop, I learned what signs to watch for, how to address the question “Are you feeling suicidal?”, when to listen to and then remind that person of what he or she has that’s worth living for, and how to create a safety plan. It was probably one of the most important training events of my life. And I hope that many, many other people will also get such training. Living Works also has a less expensive class SuicideTalk (or eSuicideTalk)
Suicidal thoughts can happen to ANYONE. No one is immune. I am lucky enough to have a large, loving family and an AMAZING bunch of friends. I’m intelligent and have accomplished a lot in life. I (usually) have faith in a spiritual system which frowns upon destroying “the temple of our flesh.” I should be immune to such thoughts. But I’m not. It can happen to anyone. And I want to help create a world in which people aren’t afraid to express their feelings and openly ask for help. Who’s with me on that?
Rachel’s Media Update
Stacking the Shelves with @Tynga’s Reviews