Suicide is something we hear about thanks to the recent openness which started some years ago. Talking about it has been and is a challenge as previously we did not consider it something we could be up front about due to the associated stigma. This stigma which is still hanging on for some has its roots deep in our psyche and history. In Greek and Roman times suicide was accepted if life had become impossible and the State even assisted by paying technicians who advised on it. In post Judo Christian tradition, it was looked less kindly on it and St Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century equated it with rejection of God’s love so it was prohibited initially by religious precept and then the legal system. Suicide does not discriminate between people of differing faith and no faith.
Most people if they are honest will have had passive suicide thoughts at some time but more active suicidal thinking and planning to commit suicide is most often encountered when we are depressed or experiencing another mental illness or overwhelmed by the enormity of life. People when completing suicide see death as the only alternative and as they become more accustomed to the thought it may gain more currency as a viable option for them.
The evidence is that we can do a great deal to influence people when they are feeling hopeless and if these thoughts are disrupted and the person is facilitated to explore alternative options, the outcome can be different.
People experiencing thoughts of suicide are often withdrawn from friends and family, hopeless and unhappy, they may have disturbed sleep pattern, feel unwanted or that believe they are a burden and are unable to access an alternative in the “stuckness” of the moment.
The priority here is keeping the person safe, allowing them to talk openly without judgement, letting them see you are concerned and want to help and getting them to see their GP or taking them to a place of safety. It’s important that they avoid self-medicating with non-prescribed drugs or alcohol as this lessens the natural inhibition and increases risk. People who are feeling suicidal see no point in living but the evidence is that after getting through the hopelessness phase, they regain their previous zest for life.
Thankfully we are inching away from a time when an attempt at suicide would have defined someone moving to a place where we are ready to acknowledge the strength and courage shown by people who talk about it.
Care of those bereaved by suicide should focus on firstly helping them through the crisis by meeting their immediate needs. Staying available to them for the longer haul is equally important as there can be an awkward bashfulness around knowing what to say or how to sit with their grief. The advice from those who have lived through it is to help them with the practical things if needed, stay close, avoid hollow reassurance, don’t ask for an explanation, help them celebrate the life of the deceased, acknowledge the uncertainty and don’t be afraid to allow them to grieve openly. A compassionate approach is the key to enabling them to re find their bearings.
Donal Fitzgerald, MSc. Accredited Cognitive Psychotherapist
SouthWest Counselling Centre will run an 8 week Programme for Parents of Children aged 5 to 12 years, starting on 19th January in Killarney, cost €25 and also starting on 19th January in Kenmare an 8 week Programme for Parents of Adolescents, cost €25 . Call 064 6636416 for more information.
SouthWest Counselling Centre Killarney provides affordable professional counselling to children, adolescents adults and couples – both at its Killarney Centre (Lewis Road) and at Kenmare Family Centre. email@example.com.
Kerry LifeLine provides FREE counselling and support to anyone feeling suicidal or bereaved through suicide. firstname.lastname@example.org To make an appointment call 064 6636416/064 66364100
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