Today I read this really great essay on The Dinner Party (thedinnerparty.org/blog/2016/2/5/how-to-not-be-an-asshole-about-suicide )
Like a lot of other really great thoughts on suicide, it comes from the perspective of those left behind. This is good, and important, but I’d like to discuss something else. How can you not be an asshole to someone who has attempted suicide, but is still here?
1. It’s NOT about you. No one attempts to end their life to get a reaction out of you. No one does it because you didn’t do enough for them. It in no way reflects upon your parenting, marriage, friendship, ect. There is more going on here.
2. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. I have spent 28 years not discussing my suicidal ideations because of how deeply uncomfortable it makes other people. This helps no one. If we refuse to talk about these things it only serves to make those of us who experience them feel more alone. If you love someone who is suicidal you are cheapening your relationship by refusing to acknowledge this part of them. HOWEVER, these conversations have to be on their terms not yours. Just be open and available.
3. Don’t be judgmental. If you have never contemplated taking your own life you are very lucky, you also have no basis on which to understand how it feels. It is so very damaging to you loved one when they are told how selfish, stupid, sinful, wasteful, or wrong their feelings are.
4. Don’t allow your continued relationship to revolve around the attempt. The person you love is still the person you love; being suicidal is a part of them not all of them.
5. Avoid using the word survivor only to talk about the people left behind by successful suicide attempts. Those of us who tried and were saved are just as much survivors.
6. Get educated. There are so many resources available for you learn more about suicide prevention.
There you are, 6 easy suggestions. Because hard things become less hard when we can have honest conversations about them more often.