I believe most suicide threats, gestures, attempts, and completed suicides happen due to voicelessness. I believe this is the case more and more.
Decades ago, people became suicidal over the loss of a loved one, financial stress, possible foreclosure of one’s home, impending war, physical pain, or unbearable chronic illness. I see that changing.
I have not met one person who successfully committed suicide who had had no prior contact with the System. Perhaps they had gone to therapy, or visited an ER, or been on a psych ward. Not one had no prior contact, although I knew some who attempted without having had seen a shrink first.
It is certainly well-documented now that there is a direct correlation between antidepressants and suicide, and also between antidepressants and violence. Even the FDA has been forced to admit this and has placed warnings on some antidepressants. In fact, if you read the pharmacy inserts that come with almost all psych meds, you’ll see warnings about suicide. You may see similar warnings on other drugs as well. I saw this warning on a cancer pill once.
However, I think another cause is voicelessness. What happens when a person dies? They get a gathering in their name, don’t they? It’s called a funeral.
When was the last time you had a gathering in your name? When was the last time someone threw a birthday party for you? Ten years ago? Twenty? Was your last party your graduation party, or was that skipped over? Was the last party your wedding, decades ago? Now, many people get ignored by family and friends, except for those Facebook greetings, many of which are now generated automatically.
We are all aware that our family and friends are going to wake up and realize we exist if we die. For those of us who are writers, we will see an increase in book sales if we die. Some people who never got a word in now have Facebook pages in their names. Memorial funds get set up. Maybe, a law gets named after the dead. I want to ask why we don’t appreciate lonely people while they are alive. The voice they gain by dying comes too late, doesn’t it?
Following a suicide attempt, I think the worst thing you can do is to shut a person out of your life. Please, open your hearts to these people. I don’t think coddling is a good idea, but I don’t for one minute that turning your back will do anything but deeply harm the person.
Who is voiceless in your community or club? Is there one person who is repeatedly told, “We don’t want your opinion,” or, perhaps, “We aren’t interested in hearing what you have to say,” or, “That was a stupid question.”
If you have been to a mental hospital, how many times were you called into a team meeting where you were told, “You can speak now, but you only have two minutes.” Or, “I want you to sum up how you feel in one word.” How many times were you interrupted mid-sentence, walked away from, or cut off before you had barely started speaking?
How many times did you try to bring up a crucial topic, only to be told, “You are triggering others and cannot speak of that.” Or, “You are interfering with other people’s treatment plans.”
After you left the hospital, did anyone even listen to you when you tried to say what it was like there? Did anyone even care? Were you told over and over, “Let’s not talk about war stories,” or, “That’s over with. Can’t we talk about something pleasant?”
How did you feel every time someone said,
“YOUR WORDS DON’T MATTER”
Maybe you agreed. You’re no one now. No good, a useless waste. Or maybe you got pissed off. Maybe you knew, then, that the only way to get anyone to listen is to die.
Or maybe you realize that if you scare people enough, they’ll start caring. People get scared because if you die, it’s on them, right? They have to pick up the mess and somehow let the world know, “It’s not our fault.” Do you realize that this is one big reason why families keep suicides secret? It’s not a secret that you are dead, but they sure don’t want to be blamed that you chose what you did.
Another reason families choose to keep suicides private is because they know the hospitals or therapists were at fault. The families fear that if they spoke the truth, exposing wrongdoings, the institutions they blame will retaliate.
All mental patients are deprived of a voice. Sure, it might not seem that way at first. At first, they’ll have family therapy sessions that give you a chance to speak to your family. How often does family therapy really accomplish that? Or is it a chance for families to speak out and ask questions, and the patient to be talked about in her presence. After they are all done arguing endlessly AND there’s still time, the patient gets to get two words in.
All present are reminded of how ill the patient is. All are reminded that the patient is mentally incompetent, what she says doesn’t matter or should be taken with a grain of salt.
If you think you’ve never been called incompetent, maybe you heard the “nice” version of it:
“You aren’t fully aware of your illness.”
“You lack insight.”
“You listen to Ed too much.”
“You are oversensitive.”
“You take life too seriously.”
“You have anger problems.”
“You feel things too much.”
“You have forgotten due to shock treatments.”
“You have a perception problem.”
“Depression puts blinders on you.”
“You are only seeking attention.”
“You’re off meds.”
All of these are euphemisms for mental incompetence. What the clinicians are saying is that your word doesn’t matter, and their word matters far more. We are repeatedly told, in effect, to shut up. We are told we are lesser quality humans.
What can a person do? While most people don’t want the spotlight on them, no one wants to be told that they don’t matter. People do want special attention if it is due, such as after a big accomplishment. How would you feel if you prepared for a year to run a Marathon, made very good time, and then, no one even cared?
What if you came in first or second place in that race or contest, and then, when it came time to passing out the medals, you were passed by, as if you were invisible? Friends, if you are capable of imagining that scenario or if it has happened to you, then you know what it’s like to be known as a mental patient. When voicelessness increases, suicide does as well.
No one, except those that are making good bucks off of us, really gives a shit what we say or think. Not anymore. This does indeed make death look rather tempting for many people.
If you are hellbent on stopping suicide, this is what I think you should do. If you know your friend is voiceless, call her up. Invite her to coffee. Spend time with her. The more she is listened to, the better she will feel. Don’t call 911, or drive your friend to an ER and leave her there or send her to therapy. Doing so reinforces to her just how much you DON’T want to be with her. When you shove a person into therapy, you are saying, “The therapist is listening to you, so I don’t have to anymore. I’m off the hook.” Don’t limit your contact to Facebook only in the name of “boundaries.” Please don’t give your friend the message that the only ones willing to listen are those that are being paid to do so. Is this what you want to tell someone who is suffering?
Be her friend instead. Reach out. Care. Listen. You will save a life.