The first thing she said to me, rather brightly, was, “Would you like to talk about death?”
“Sure, why not,” I said. And so began our matter-of-fact discussion about her decision to commit suicide.
That was a call I took recently on the crisis line. Contrast that with another recent call from someone who had also decided to kill herself but was feeling angry at the mental health system and desperate and hopeless about her situation. Her emotions were running so high, at times it was hard to understand what she was saying but what she was saying made perfect sense to me.
I enjoyed talking with both people. The matter-of-fact caller was particularly interesting because all her reasons for suicide were the same that mine used to be. I was challenged to remember the counter-arguments I used to use on myself.
For her, life simply wasn’t worth the bother.
For confidentiality reasons, I won’t share the details of her situation. They don’t matter. Suicidal people usually have good reasons for wanting to die.
She can’t see a point to her life and she doesn’t find the idea of death frightening. She doesn’t believe in heaven but she doesn’t believe in hell either. She believes she has the right to commit suicide because she never asked to be here in the first place. Actually, like a lot of suicidal people, she hopes for divine intervention to take her life rather than having to do it herself.
Although she’s not interested in life, she is happy for others who enjoy living. She appreciates that others in the world are far worse off than she is but that doesn’t change anything. The only problem is her pet. Her sense of responsibility to her pet is what is keeping her alive. (You might be surprised how often callers talk of their pets.)
Here’s the counter-argument I used to use on myself and what I shared with her.
Life can be miserable, take incredible effort and be pointless. But it is what it is. It’s an experience and well, I’ve got nothing else on the go and nowhere else to be, so why not just experience it. It’s a rare opportunity to be here so I may as well see it through. Yep, this actually worked for me.
So, caller #2. Her struggles to conquer depression were formidable and had gone on for years. From her perspective, she had tried everything and the medical system had given up on her. She no longer felt any joy in anything and had completely lost herself in depression.
She didn’t want a discussion about death. She wanted validation that yes in fact she had given “beating depression” a good try. I found the validation easy to dish out because she really had tried. Of course that doesn’t mean her conclusion, that she should die, is right. We kept talking until help arrived.
A few observations and reminders from my past week…
Feeling suicidal can be a calm rational feeling or it can be emotionally intense.
People who are suicidal don’t reach out because they want someone to talk them out of it. They want empathetic listening to help them process their feelings and thoughts.
What suicidal people are missing is hope. They may still have goals or a vision of the life they want but they no longer see any way of getting it or feel helpless to do anything about it.
Just because suicide seems a logical option doesn’t mean it’s the right option.
If people in general weren’t so freaked out by talking about death, suicidal people would have more support options.
How do you talk yourself out of suicide?
About the Author
I promote peer support and encourage people on their recovery journeys. My plan with this blog is to build a community of like-minded individuals offering ideas and encouragement from their own experiences. My master plan is to help create psychologically safe and supportive workplaces. I live in Calgary, Canada.