Is Suicide Preventable?

POSSIBLY … IF WE FOCUS ON THE “WHY” By Liz Gunn  ||  I know this has been written before.  It’s been written a million times and from a million different angles. But until it stops, I feel like it will always be worth addressing one more time.  I do not…


liz gunnBy Liz Gunn  ||  I know this has been written before.  It’s been written a million times and from a million different angles.

But until it stops, I feel like it will always be worth addressing one more time.  I do not pretend to have the ability to wrap my head around the concept of suicide.  I don’t think many people who have never contemplated it could even conceive of it.

After learning of the death of Robin Williams Monday night – which turned out to be self-inflicted – I took comfort in reading tributes to him composed by his colleagues and friends.  He was so well loved and respected by his peers!  Deep in the comment section of one post, someone shared perhaps the best analogy ever written of what it must be like to consider taking your own life; about how dark a place you must be in for that to ever be an option.

Here is the excerpt I found:

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

-David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

I am a critical thinker.  No matter the subject, I am always searching for the ‘why.’  I need to understand why  things happen. For me, reading this was an “a-ha” moment.  I had to share this because for me it finally put it into perspective – shedding a little light on an act that to most seems so unthinkable.  Sadly, the author himself committed suicide at the age of forty-six.  He died in the very same manner Robin Williams did; found in his home by his wife.

On the surface, it’s easy for people who have no experience with depression to assess suicide as selfish or cowardice.  People see it as an escape route.  After all, the person who dies isn’t around to deal with the aftermath.  It’s family and friends who are left behind to mourn and pick up the pieces.  My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that it’s society that is being selfish.

Why does mental illness make people so uncomfortable?  If someone has any other chronic condition like cancer or heart disease, their friends and family rally around them.  They run marathons for awareness.  They talk openly about it at the dinner table, the struggles they face and how it’s affecting their lifestyle, their career, their relationships.  So why is that people battling clinical depression feel like they have to hide it from the world?  If anyone needs for others to be aware of their condition it’s the mentally ill.

Society doesn’t want to hear your sad story.  It makes people uncomfortable.  Could it be because we live in a world where little boys are told not to cry?  To “man up?”  To shake it off?  Where emotions are often seen as a sign of weakness?  No wonder the male suicide rate is nearly four times that of females.

There is a stigma around mental illness and it is unfortunately forcing some people to go it alone.  I have not dealt with depression myself, but many people close to me have.  The thing they need the most is support.  Support is hard to come by when no one wants to hear about it.

There is a big difference in clinical depression and prolonged sadness.  I have certainly dealt with the latter in my life, many times.  Most people have, perhaps over the loss of a loved or the end of a relationship.  It passes and eventually, even though at the time you thought you never would, you move on.  You get back to normal.  Clinical depression, however, is much bigger and much stronger – and doesn’t always have a trigger.  Hence the reason a lot of people who lose their battle with it are the most unsuspecting.

It can happen to anyone, even someone who seems to have it all.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring difficult issues to light.  I’m hoping this will be the silver lining in the loss of one of the funniest people who ever lived.

If you suffer from clinical depression, please talk about it.  Talk to your friends, share your story with anyone who will listen.  Don’t try to go it alone.  Also if you suspect someone is suffering, talk to them.  People struggling with mental illness need to know there is hope.  You never know when you could be reminding someone how much they have to fight for.  Above all, be kind. It’s so easy these days to sit behind a keyboard and spew venom at a complete stranger for no apparent reason other than boredom, a lack of restraint and anonymity.  But words are powerful.  Be mindful of that when you use them.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t passionately defend things you believe in – especially when it comes to important, yet divisive issues – but recognize when things are getting personal.  And more importantly recognize when getting personal crosses the line into needless cruelty.  I plan on keeping the founding editor of this website mindful of that distinction, too – as I think being tactful makes FITS a more effective critic on the issues.

Finally, if you are in crisis don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. The National Suicide Prevention Helpline is 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). Also, if you would like to learn more about the warning signs and how you can prevent suicide, visit American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Liz Gunn is a wife, mom, author, businesswoman, travel enthusiast, food snob, fashionista, lover of great wine and the No. 1 Gamecock football fan … ever.  A graduate of the University of South Carolina, she lives in Columbia, S.C. with her husband and daughter.

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euwe max August 14, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Make the punishment the death penalty

Can't escape the "law" August 14, 2014 at 11:46 pm

I always laughed about the “illegality” of suicide. Perhaps their estate should be fined as well.

euwe max August 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Kill their family.

Thomas August 14, 2014 at 5:32 pm

You want to know why? If you ever experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder you realize the problem is an imbalance of neurotransmitters. Humans have only mapped 1/3 of all estimated neurotransmitters in the brain. Depression is a neurotransmitter imbalance. Can depression be psychosomatic? Yes. Stresses from life not properly addressed often leads neurotransmitter imbalances leading to depression, chaotic behavior, and even suicide. Lack of money, a career gone bye, old age can create unbelievable stress leading to depression resulting in suicide was Robin’s fall. His lifetime substance abuse exacerbated his neurotransmitter imbalances to a point of depletion of or permanent uptake blockages for neurotransmitters. We call that brain damage. Big Pharm does not have the drugs to cure all mental illness. Some drugs block receptors, some drugs open receptors often with mixed results patient to patient.

Liz August 14, 2014 at 5:48 pm

good info, Thomas. I’ve always thought it was so strange that one major side effect of a lot of anti-depressants is “thoughts of suicide”. Thanks for the reply.

Thomas August 14, 2014 at 11:13 pm

Now we know why the use of alcohol is forbidden with the use of psychotropic medications. Alcohol blocks receptors. I worked for a Neuropsychologist at Dorn VA back in the day. He worked on finding associative learning centers in the human brain using albino rabbits. My assistance was credited. He is published.

Squishy123 August 14, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Is it preventable, Yes and No. Yes if you want to do something like institutionalize the person and have him watched every second. No, because if a person really wants to end it all they will succeed.

Bible Thumper August 14, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Even when a person has support from family and friends, and is receiving treatment, suicides and attempts can occur. Ether way the family is not responsible for their decision.
Often attempts can be triggered by changes in life, even positive changes that one is enthusiastic about can cause stress; illness, births, deaths, new job, unemployment, retirement, divorce or marriage.
People in the medical profession are much more (successful) at suicide than others. Safely store guns and medications in the home or if possible remove them from the home.
Guilt is not helpful in discouraging suicide. Of course let the person know you love them and would miss them but telling them you would be angry encourages guilt for suicide feelings which deepens depression and discourages them from openly discussing it.
Finally, suicide is not an unforgivable sin. This belief just deepens guilt, self loathing and depression. It also causes unnecessary pain to the family.
Romans 8:
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Liz August 14, 2014 at 11:05 pm

I agree, 100%. Thanks for your reply!

SCBlues August 14, 2014 at 8:23 pm

I really enjoyed reading your essay – hopefully thoughtful persons like yourself will help to ease that stigma.

Liz August 14, 2014 at 11:26 pm

So glad you enjoyed it. I hope so, too!

Sailor August 14, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Liz: Thank you for one of the most intelligent posts I’ve read on this site. I just hope Grand Tango reads it and can absorb it.

Liz August 14, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Thanks for reading!

patch adams August 15, 2014 at 5:20 am

you call yourself a critical thinker but all you do is follow the fake mainstream media and just rubber stamp the perspective they have already chosen for you. fashionista, food snob? you take suicide advice from someone who killed themself? LMFAO! FAKE MODERN MEDICINE WILL NEVER CURE “mental illness” by giving people drugs and listening to liar fraud pharma-pimp psychiatrists. and an even worse path to try to decode all the lies and misdirection is taking your cues from news media stories on hollywood celebrties. why peoplecommit suicde:its very simple: instead of learning the truth of real spirituality which unfolds itself as wisdom unveilng the meaning of life, the reality of what g od really is, and the techniques and how to unlock deeper levels of awareness regarding the true realityvia metaphysical, mystical and occult knowledge; instead, the liar media- one of whose jobs its is to pimp for the pharmaceutical industry and the for-profit medical-insurance cartel hoax- promotes, endlessly false paradigms whichleads sheep right to the slaughter. the only reason anyone gets sick, physically or mentally is because they don’t understand that your mind creates your own reality, but if you have a mind cluttered wih intentionally created false paradigms (created by the media, fake religion and fake science/medicine) and if you don’t understand the rules that govern the false reality of this material world (known as “maya” glamour, illusion)—and your mind always can perceive to the very end of the infinite and back to your own ego-driven personality— but with all the false paradigms, that ability to see to the end and back becomes completely skewed, and all those false paradigms become magnified exponentially—AND THAT IS THE REAL SOURCE OF MENTAL ILLNESSS. because peopl are not given the basic tools to understand and transcend this false reality- and instead of having the capacity, available to every human to access true divine knowledgewisdomundertsanding- people are fed fake religion,fake medicine, fake science, spiritualyexploited by systems created to spirituallyENSLAVE- (exoterically all religions are based in truth but have been perverted and corrupted into systems that perpetuate false knowledge and foster control via ignorance through dogma and theology which the aim is political control). i’m sorry for you, but you will never be a “criticalthinker” locked into your false ego/persona=mask. real truth only will come from resetting your mind, wiping away all false paradigms, and discovering the systemsof ancient wisdom. unfortunately most people are content wth wallowing in their egos which always leads to physical and mental illness.

Liz August 15, 2014 at 7:51 am

It sounds like you have more experience with mental illness than I do for sure. Sincerely hope you he the help you need. (And for the record, there is no “advice” about suicidde. As stated it was an analogy that I found to be helpful). Best of luck to you.

euwe max August 15, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Mushrooms, or LSD?

euwe max August 15, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Make free drugs available for suiciders… euphoria inducing drugs… all they want.


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