Wednesday was a bit of a rough day for me. Wednesday 3 years ago was the day when the body of a close friend of mine was found – he died by suicide and it hit everything in his life like a ton of bricks. No one expected it – he was a happy, amazing guy who would do anything for anyone who asked. He helped me through some of the toughest times in my life and frankly I can thank him for saving my life. Many were shocked that this amazing guy was struggling with some serious suicidal thoughts.
Something that still bothers me to this day (despite my knowledge and having worked in the suicide prevention field) is how blindsided I was. I felt that maybe if I picked up on some hidden clue (that to this day I still can’t find) in our conversations maybe I could have helped him. I think it’s a thought that goes through many people’s head after losing a friend to suicide and can be a horrible one to have.
A hard truth I learned from working at the suicide hotline is sometimes there really aren’t many (or any) signs. I’ve also learned this from experience – sometimes the most gut wrenching suicidal ideation just pops into my without any rhyme or reason. Playing the “what if” game, blaming yourself for what you didn’t do can become a vicious cycle that doesn’t accomplish anything. This blog offers some helpful insight into this and also lists someone common signs that are present when there are signs. They can range from talking about suicide, obtaining means, and giving away prized possessions.
The most important thing I think I’ve learned since this is how important it is to spread suicide prevention resources to everyone and anyone. There is so much the suicide prevention hotlines can do to save lives that it’s vital that everyone (those in and outside the mental health community) knows the phone numbers for their local suicide hotline. Someone may not feel comfortable talking to close family/friends about their feelings or letting them know they’re thinking about suicide (the stigma around suicidal thoughts and ideation is real) but may feel comfortable talking to a stranger about it. I still carry a card in my wallet that has the National Lifeline’s phone number on it, just in case I or someone else (stranger, family, anyone) I know needs it.
I spent a lot of the day thinking back to the good memories I have of him – our ice cream trips, being lab partners in Biology, and our talks before class about everything and anything. He was an amazing person and I miss him dearly – I wish he would have talked to someone (his family, other friends, me, anyone) about what he as going through. But I understand that the stigma surrounding it causes so many people to stay silent. I hope someday that stigma around suicidal ideation is erased and people can talk openly about it without fear of being judged.