15 November 2012

Why Suicidal Ideation Shouldn't Stay Private

A lot of things have happened since I last posted, and it's been a while since I have, but I feel moved to share something I just wrote for an assignment. If you have thoughts of suicide, please talk to someone.

The importance of identifying and addressing suicidal ideation in others cannot be understated. I personally have lost a close person to suicide. For me, it was my godfather – the man who delivered me when I was born. This was someone who could have been a major influence on my life, but instead was lost to the world when I was only six years old.
There are two ways in which I look at the tragedy of my godfather’s death. The first is this: it is important for us to be able to talk about suicide on a variety of levels. As I was six years old, my parents chose to tell me that my godfather had died of natural causes and did not discuss the true manner in which he died. However, I found out how he had actually died around a year later, and from a friend of my own age; I can remember it very distinctly, as it felt to me as though I had lost him all over again, but this time my memories of him were tarnished by the taboo of suicide. I think we as social workers need to understand the implications of death and of suicide at a variety of ages, and feel comfortable discussing this with children, adolescents, and adults. I would have benefited from a better, if maybe not fully detailed, understanding of how my godfather passed, despite my being so young.
            The second way I view this tragedy is this: it is madness that a man with a medical degree who was currently practicing in a medical field did not feel as though he could seek out help, and that no one saw the signs of suicidal thoughts in him. It seems unreal to me that he could hide his severe depression and suicidal ideation from so many. My godfather had a long and early history of trauma. I do not doubt that these traumas fed into his depression and his inability to handle certain stressors, like having a newborn son of his own. However, that his wife did not seek help for him, and that his friends and colleagues did not either, points to the overwhelming fact that seeking help for suicide continues to be too stigmatized to be accessible. Until we remove the stigma from seeking help, we will continue to see wonderful people take their own lives. 
            The pain of losing someone has long impacts. My godmother has had many of her own issues, many of which I feel relate to the traumas of losing a loved one to suicide. Their son has lost a lot in not having a father. My parents and our community lost an amazing friend and doctor. I lost a wonderful relationship with an intelligent man. How can these losses be preferable to banning the stigma of seeking help?