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Let's not be afraid of the 'S' word

Let's not be afraid of the 'S' word

August 15, 2014

By Elizabeth Thelen
Posted Aug. 15, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

Throw a small pebble into a pond and notice the small ripples that follow and how the water stills after only a few seconds. Now throw a large rock into the pond and watch the larger ripples and how much longer the water remains disturbed. The effect is different, depending on the size of the impact. The same can be said for the effects of suicide. Yes, I said the "S" word: Suicide.
When someone dies by suicide, it can impact a few individuals, a family, a community, or millions of people (think Robin Williams). Suicide, just like cancer, doesn't discriminate based on age, sex, race, or socioeconomic status. I am a firm believer that, given the right circumstances, anyone can have the thought of suicide, however fleeting, enter their mind. It becomes a problem when the thoughts become recurrent and one begins to think of ways to end their own life. Their reasoning for wanting to end their life could be anything — for one it may be the loss of a job, and for another it could be a terminal disease.
The majority of people who are contemplating suicide are also struggling with depression. Depression is a disease of the mind and therefore not always easily seen or recognized. Some people are better at masking their emotions than others — again, think of Robin Williams. The man who will forever be known for the hilarious characters that he played on the big screen was struggling with severe depression, but we never would have guessed it by how he portrayed himself in public.
Often times, family and friends don't know the struggle the person is going through or aren't able to recognize the signs that something could be seriously wrong. Things such as the person losing interesting in activities that they once enjoyed, giving away prized possessions, making comments about how worthless they are or how hopeless they are, or talking about death a lot — these are all signs that suicide may be on their mind, but are not exclusive to suicidal thinking.
Good rule of thumb to go by? Anything that is out of the ordinary for that person is a sign that something is going on with them. And the best way to be sure? Ask! By directly asking someone if they are having thoughts of suicide, you are more likely to get an honest response.
If they say yes, listen to them. Allow them to talk. One of the worst things you can do is to blow them off by saying something like, "Oh, you don't mean that," or "Well, that's just stupid." If you can't be that shoulder that they need, there is help out there. There are crisis lines (national and local) that people can call and they will always get a live person to talk to. If in doubt, 911 operators have these numbers and can connect you.

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