This week is suicide prevention week, and I have some thoughts on the issue, so why not write about it?
A number of years ago, not that many, just a few, the phrase “suicide is 100% preventable” entered our lexicon. I don’t know how, or why, or from where, but I think it does a major disservice to survivors and the mental health community.
First, how about we look at some facts!
Suicide is often paired with mental illness, including substance abuse, at about a 90% clip. Pretty staggering. But that also means that 10% of people who off themselves are not mentally ill or abusing substances.
Of those 90%, only about 75% leave what would be considered ‘classic signs’ like leaving notes, saying goodbye, and talking about suicide. So that means that 25% of these people only have one warning sign: mental illness or substance abuse.
You can kill yourself with practically any household item. You can finish it with practically any means of conveyance. You can always throw yourself off of practically any man-made structure. If you have the wherewithal you can always drown yourself or hang yourself and OD.
So, even if the person you are trying to prevent from suicide happens to be one of the 67.5% that is both mentally ill or abusing substances and leaving detectable signs, you have to contend with the fact that there are practically limitless ways to commit suicide, if the person is committed enough.
But even if you could remove every risk and be with that person 100% of the time, there is still the other 32.5% that you really have little to no idea that suicide is on the horizon.
So no, suicide is not 100% preventable. I would assert that it is not even mostly preventable.
And there is danger in suggesting that it is.
First, people who lose someone to suicide will feel even more responsible for the death if they believe they absolutely could have prevented it.
Second, we are taking the power and problems of suicide away from the people who commit the act and placing it on the people that ‘should have’ prevented it.
Third, even the most heavily controlled and common illnesses/ diseases never have 100% preventability. Suggesting that suicide does grants us the ability to make it a lower level problem. The common cold would be more menacing.
Fourth, a lot of people I have met that have been suicidal consider it inevitable. I have accepted suicide as an eventuality in my life, something that might surprise people with the timing but not shock anyone with the act.
I tend to look at suicide more favorably than the average person. I think it should be a viable end of life scenario, and should not have the stigma that follows the deceased as well as the family of around. I am all for assisted suicide, but I think it should be extended to people who are suffering from severe depression.
I have no regrets about my suicide attempts, and I would not have any regrets had any of those been successful. I know that suicide is something that bothers my family and friends more than it bothers me, and that is something that prevents me from doing it.
I was always told that suicide is selfish, and that the person is thinking of no one but his or herself. But I don’t buy that. It is also selfish of you to stop my suicide because you want me around. I am the person managing pain that you could not believe, you just don’t want to cry for a couple days. Boo hoo.
If you are in a position to prevent a suicide, you should try. Most attempts are done with lethal intention anyway, your interference could stop a situation from escalating for spurious reasons. But never look at someone who committed suicide and feel like there was anything you could have done to prevent it, because there wasn’t. Find happiness that he or she is no longer suffering. Look for someone to console.