Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Naturally, I have some thoughts about this, but I promise it isn’t a pity-seeking tale while I attempt to drag you into the pits of my despair. Because this isn’t for him; it is for the shocking number of people who have approached me since then who have said that they struggle with suicidal thoughts and depression.
Here’s the one thing I know to be true of any form of prevention: it only really works when you’ve performed some sort of maintenance along the way. If you have the oil changed in your car regularly, it’s easier to keep engine problems from happening. Regular screenings with your doctor and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen will prolong your health. Whatever you’re trying to prevent, it requires checking in on along the way.
People are like that. They need to be checked in on. The only problem is that we get too busy or we think they are fine. I never knew my husband was struggling; I never thought I needed to check in on something that seemed “not perfect, but still fine.” Relationships need to be maintained regularly to prevent catastrophic issues that catch you unprepared, like suicide.
In the aftermath, we always think how easy it is to ask compared to finding out too late. It’s not easy. Imagine looking at your spouse or your best friend and asking them about suicide. Would you be ready to handle any response they gave you with the wisdom it would require to not just freak the hell out? That isn’t easy.
Every time we watched A Million Little Things, I could have looked at him and asked, “Hey, do you ever feel like that?” No, I had no way of knowing I needed to. The point is, we need to start asking anyway.
Everyone is posting today pushing you to ask your friends how they are. Here’s the reality: a person struggling this much might not give you an honest answer. All these well-meaning posts say to make a safe place for people to say they need help. Trust me, that isn’t enough.
Mental health was a constant topic in my house. Talking about feelings was quite normal, always safe between us. Depression was not something I had ever considered he might have, because there was ample opportunity for him to have brought it up during our conversations. Except, I never asked.
The first point I want to make is that you will never know when to ask. Ask anyway. The majority of the people who have approached me and shared their struggles are people you would never have guessed.
The second point is, the canned statements are not going to get through to them. All of these slogans are thoughts they mentally battle constantly. No, they don’t feel they can say they need help. No, they don’t feel they have someone to call. No, they don’t feel wanted. Those are just words to them when they need to feel it through acts of love.
One conversation my husband and I had made time for a couple times is that everyone, if they are honest with themselves, has considered this at some point or another.
Maybe they haven’t reached the point of believing their life has no meaning or that no one cares. But most people have thought about the things they hold most dear in their lives and whether they could handle losing them. Most have asked themselves how great a tragedy they could bear. Most have silently wondered how much pain they could face before begging for it to end.
Those are the things we need to be asking each other.
Ask your friends what would be worth giving their life over if they lost it. Ask them if they could lose all their loved ones, their job and livelihood, their reputation, and still be able to rise the next day. Ask them what would cause them to reach their breaking point.
We all have a limit. Instead of asking a loaded question that may not even get an honest answer, ask each other about these values and limitations. And then, meet your friends with a message of hope, grace, and promise that you would be there if that day ever came. Then, do it again. Ask them in a month how things are going on those topics they hold so dear to their hearts. Maintain the friendship; maintain each other. That is what prevention looks like.
So I’ll ask you – what is your breaking point? In the spirit of opening doors, I’ll be back next week to say what mine is.