There is stigma regarding the topic of suicide. It is clearly a very sensitive issue that impacts many people’s lives. It is a topic that makes people uncomfortable and can be extremely complicated to discuss.
However, it is a critical topic that needs to be addressed; since, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, “suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States.”
The question of why a person would want to take their own life baffles many, and is also upsetting and scary. I do feel that no matter how scary or “taboo” this topic is, we, as a society must talk about it in order to help people.
After an individual has taken their own life, there are the survivors of that person who are left behind. I feel that the community and society must try to assist those that need to continue in life.
I researched to see if human beings were the only species that took their own lives. The answer is yes, in fact, humans are the only species to do this behavior. This makes sense, since, human beings are the only species with the cognitive ability to contemplate their own future.
The sad fact is when somebody’s loved one takes their own life, a common question that may go through the survivors’ mind is, “What could I have done?” “What did I miss?” “I should have done more.” “Why did they leave me?” It’s very torturous to not only be struck with grief, pain, and loss, but the additional burden of these unanswerable questions. These questions typically stay with the loved ones.
According to psychologist Jesse Bering, in his book, Suicidal, the current data shows that a person will kill themselves based upon two factors: genetic predisposition and environmental causes.
I would like to take a look at three reasons why someone would take their own life.
Here are 3 perspectives as to why a person would turn to death
- For some people, death evolves into the “only” viable option. People usually start off by wanting to change their current situation. They typically will feel that there are several different options. So, they begin to try a few different ways to solve the problem. If or when they feel like nothing has changed, they begin to feel a sense of learned helplessness. Meaning, they start to feel powerless over their life and their environment.
In time, they start to believe there is no solution, other than death, in order to solve the problem. They become unable to see any other way out. Eventually, death, in their perspective, becomes the “only” option. At some point, this perspective becomes a valid belief to the person.
- They suffer from clinical depression. When a person is suffering from depression, they have a tendency to view themselves as hopeless, the world as hopeless, and their future as hopeless. They may have thoughts that sound like, “There is no point in trying, nothing will change.” Or, “Everyone would be better off if I did not exist.” In time, death, and the prospect of not being on this earth, starts providing them with an escape fantasy from their depressing and painful reality. Eventually, they might commit stronger to death than to life.
- For some people, they perceive suicide as the only way to get their voice heard. They might feel invisible, desperate, and unheard for years. Some people will kill themselves as a way to show other people how much they were hurting, or how much pain they were in. Devastating, but some people, while on Earth, do not feel that they can ever get their voice heard unless they do something as drastic as end their life.
It is important to note that alcohol and drugs can play a big role in suicide. For one, when people are under the influence of a substance, they lose their sense of judgment, and they become more impulsive.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), more than 1 in 3 people are under the influence when they commit suicide. Therefore, the combination of believing death is the “only” option, and being under the influence of a substance, may become a deadly combination.
After a person has ended their life, the surviving loved ones do need to find a way to continue living in the world, while feeling grief, pain, loss, and perhaps confusion. Here are some tips for the survivors to cope.
One, sometimes it is helpful to seek help from a qualified, licensed mental health specialist. Preferably, one who specializes in grief and loss. In some cases, it may help to discuss all of the emotions and feelings that you are experiencing, in a confidential and safe context. Some individuals and families prefer to consult their clergy, depending on their religious beliefs.
Second, support groups have proven helpful for some survivors. Third, if you feel angry, allow yourself to feel the anger. Anger is a normal emotion to experience when going through the process of grief and loss. Anger may or may not be more present when grieving the loss of a loved one who killed themselves.
Try not to push the anger away, or run from it, rather allow yourself to feel it. You might want to “vent” to a loved one or journal. Some have found it cathartic to visit their loved one’s final resting place and express how they feel at that location.
Most importantly, there is no set rules or “right” or “wrong” way to feel. Most psychologists agree that allowing yourself to feel all the emotions and feelings is a healthy way to help yourself cope with the loss. If you are looking for resources to help deal with suicide loss, here are some:
Organizations and Resources
- American Association of Suicidology’s Support Groups Directory
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Connections: Peer Support for Suicide Attempt Survivors and Those with Suicidal Thoughts
- Crisis Text Line
- Live Through This
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline MY3 App
- Now Matters Now
- SAVE, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center
- The Jed Foundation
- The Kim Foundation
- Wellness Recovery Action Plan
- With Help Comes Hope: Support for Persons Living with Suicidal Thoughts and Suicide Attempts
Bering, Jesse. (2018). Suicidal. University of Chicago Press