I know that I invite people into my life, especially to ask me questions. So I don’t tend to mind when they do, but somethings you never expect.
“Have you attempted suicide?”
It struck me at first that maybe this was an awkward attempt at deepening the conversation. People often do not know how to talk to me about mental health stuff. I get that. It isn’t an easy conversation, and I am pushing the issue by writing this blog.
But have I tried to kill myself?
How can you possibly think that is an appropriate question? At least, phrased in that way. Buffer it with a little ‘this is personal but…’ or ‘do you mind if I ask you about suicide?’ or who knows. But so blunt, so tacky. I wasn’t offended, but I kind of felt like I should be. There is a stigma that all mentally ill people are either suicidal or homicidal, but I didn’t get the sense this person was coming from that angle.
Would you pick someone up from chemo and half mile down the road ask them why they started smoking in the first place. You don’t ask a diabetic how much insulin they inject. You get me. You have to intimately know the person to ask, right? Even if this person was an avid reader, which I highly doubt, it is a subject that needs to be breached in a softer way.
First, there is the assumption that people with mental illness all attempt suicide. Let’s clear up some facts. Most people who attempt suicide suffer from mental illness, but most people who have mental illness never attempt suicide.
But I have. I have made attempts. Some people would say that I have not made serious attempts because I have never needed to be medically treated for anything. But I have been in that head space. I get it.
And I don’t mind talking about it, obviously. In fact, I enjoy helping if I can. But can we get a little decency in posing the question?
If you want to talk to a person with a mental illness, ask general questions, or phrase it in a way where you know it comes from sincerity. Most every bipolar I have ever met is very open about their disease, especially if they know they won’t be judged. It is okay to be curious. I encourage you to ask questions and learn.
But maybe avoid the suicide question until you are certain it won’t be taken wrong.