Let’s put a pin in that question for just a moment.
Imagine a young woman named Jane. Jane is single, works full time, and lives alone in an apartment about 20 minutes away from her job. She leads what would be considered a pretty normal life until one day...
Her apartment building catches fire. Jane cannot escape and dies in her 3rd floor apartment.
Most of us, whether we knew Jane personally or not, would feel some sort of sadness for the loss of life. What most of us would not feel is a disappointment that Jane didn’t try harder to save her own life.
But what if I told you that Jane’s death was caused by suicide? Would how you feel about her death change?
The fire that took Jane’s life was caused by her failed marriage, her disdain for her job, the passing of her sister, and her crippling financial debt.
The flames that engulfed her apartment were caused by her belief that she is hopeless, worthless, and alone.
If Jane stuck her head out of her 3rd floor apartment window and you could see her from the ground below, what would you say to her?
“Jane! What are you doing?
You’ve got choices! Use them!
Focus on the positive!
You have your whole life ahead of you!
It’s not that bad! Get out of there!”
Or would you say...
“OH MY GOD!!!
There’s someone up there!
We have to help them!
Don’t worry, Jane! Help is coming!”
Most of us would say the latter and spring into action. We wouldn’t use the situation to suggest how Jane should handle it. You don’t have to know what it feels like to be engulfed in flames to know that a person in that position needs help.
However, if you’ve ever approached a mental health crisis with constructive criticism, you are not alone. If fact, this blog post was prompted by my own psychotherapist addressing a recent mental health crisis in a similar manner. I went into my therapist’s office expressing some feelings that I was afraid would lead me into a depressive episode to which the therapist responded…
“You’ll be fine.”
She’s not even the first mental health professional to undermine my feelings of depression. It’s a very disheartening feeling to reach out for help and feel ignored. Sometimes what I think people miss is that a mental health crisis has little to do with feelings. By the time a person is contemplating suicide they have moved beyond feeling sad. Even a person abusing drugs and alcohol isn’t just trying to “feel better.” They are trying to stop the pain.
They don’t feel lonely. They are lonely. They don’t feel hopeless. They have no hope. Those feelings have shifted to a reality for them that is painful and unbearable, so to treat their reality like a fleeting emotion reinforces that they are indeed alone.
So, what would you say to a person contemplating suicide? Well, sometimes it not so much about what you would say and more about what you would do. What would you do to save their life?
Jane, just like anyone in a crisis, is in need of some serious and immediate help.
Wanting to help is the first and very important step. Understanding how to help can be what truly saves lives.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1(800)273-8255
What Happens When You Call a Suicide Prevention Hotline
After spending a year in grief counseling, I started to see that my life needed a major overhaul. Yes, my boyfriend died making me the single mom of our infant twins, but I was still grieving my loss of innocence from decades of abuse. I decided to turn my pain into a new purpose and to share this journey with others that may need some motivation.