Dealing with suicide
Bang, bang go the coffin nails, like a breath exhaled,
Then gone forever.
It seems like just yesterday, how did I miss the red flags raised?
Think back to the days we laughed.
We braved these bitter storms together.
Brought to his knees he cried,
But on his feet he died.
- Make It Stop by Rise Against Band
More and more news headlines highlighting suicides or murder-suicides have generated shock for readers and anguish and bewilderment for families.
Many are surprised that their loved ones could resort to that kind of painful action, while for others, they are angry that the person could be so weak.
Some family members experience a sense of guilt as they ponder how they could have missed the warning signs that their loved ones were crying out for help.
Kerrian Johnson of Kerrian Johnson Ministries, a team which specialises in outreach for the mentally ill and those battling suicidal thoughts, shed some light on the topic with Family and Religion.
"People who commit suicide may do so for a lot of different reasons, but generally, they are not cowards or lacking in character. Such people can get worn down over years of difficulties and despair, so they may at that point be weak in terms of going on, but no one is exempt from feeling the same way under similar circumstances," she shared.
For Johnson, suicide takes place when the quality of life falls below a standard that makes death more desirable, or the anticipation of such circumstances makes death seem like a better option.
"Sometimes people act for other reasons, but whatever the reason, I think suicide is never intended to be selfish or weak," she said, pointing out that one of the most common reasons for suicide is depression and this state, she said, can warp the thinking process.
Among the other conditions that can lead to suicide are being psychotic (inner voices giving commands), being addicted to drugs which leads them to become maudlin and some cry out for help by attempting something they think won't kill them.
"These people don't usually want to die, but do want to alert those around them that something is seriously wrong. They often don't believe they will die, frequently choosing methods they don't think can kill them in order to strike out at someone who's hurting them - but are sometimes tragically misinformed," said Johnson.
Although in some cases there will not be any visible telltale signs that trouble looms on the horizon, Johnson said there are some warning signs to take note of.
According to her, someone who constantly talks about wanting to die or kill himself or herself should be closely monitored.
"If they are talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live, express that they feel trapped or keep saying they are a burden to others are things to look out for," she said.
Other observances to take note of, according to Johnson, are extreme mood swings, being withdrawn, suddenly happier or calmer and displaying less interest in things they usually cared about.
Family left to grieve
While death may have taken the person out of their perceived misery, families are left behind to deal with the pain and sense of guilt.
Acknowledging that it is not an easy task and that the wounds are long and lasting, Johnson said the shock and grief that consume persons after losing a loved one to suicide are overwhelming.
"It can feel like you have fallen into a deep hole and will never be able to get out. These are natural feelings which will likely change as you move through the grieving," Johnson said.
She further noted that there are stages of getting past grief and they are shock, denial, guilt, sadness, anger and acceptance.
"When all these stages are experienced, it will be easier to cope with the loss," she shared.
It will then be time to mend the family and this, she said, can be done by realising it will not happen overnight.
"There is no magic pill for this. Each person will deal with the death differently and so the process will take some time. The best way to deal with this is to allow each person the time to grieve and seek professional help if the need arise. Do not judge and try to communicate whenever possible so the unity will not be lost. Remember verbal communication is not the only way to communicate. Use all options available in this time, but be sure not to crowd the individual at this time as that can have a negative effect," Johnson told Family and Religion.