Let me start with an explanation of the experience I had writing the information below. When I set out to understand, solve, or explain something better, I usually ask myself three questions about the problem – “What is it?”, “How is it?”, “Why is it?”. This method of learning has produced some extraordinary results through out my life. As you read you will see this is how I treated the problem of suicide. Understand that I am pulling from my own internal thoughts, values, and beliefs as well as in-person interventions and experiences I have had over the years as a psychotherapist.
What is suicide?
When a person takes their own life. Death of a person by that same person. Killing of the self. When a person destroys their own thinking and feeling centers.
How is suicide completed?
Obviously, it would be inappropriate and insensitive to completely answer this question. Let it suffice me to say that suicide can be completed in the same ways homicides are. Some are planned, others are more impulsive. Some are the result of drug use or other forms of rational disengagement and relinquishing of agency.
Why do people commit suicide?
Several factors play into this. I will list some that I have come across:
Lack of or non-existent social supports
Environmentally induced isolation
Unresolved grieving from loss/trauma
Unresolved attachment injuries
Unresolved childhood abuse/neglect
Lowered psychological resiliency
Low emotional awareness
Perception of no end of suffering/pain
Realization of inability to change the unchangeable facts of their story
One positive way to look at this list is that if we are able to provide or facilitate the opposite of the above statements, we may be able to prevent some from completing suicide.
How to prevent suicide?
Ultimately, there is a universal and divine law that governs all of us – agency, or the ability to choose for ourselves what we will do with our lives. We do not hold power to control all our circumstances, but we are allowed to answer the question “what do I do now?”. Whether it is your life or the life of another, it is a power and responsibility that is not to be taken lightly. You are given a life to live and no one else is responsible for what you do with it.
Painful Truth: A person is capable of making up their mind to end their life, and most are capable of creating circumstances to prevent our interventions to protect them. Sometimes, and this is why suicide is so traumatic, there is nothing we can do to save a person from their decision to end their own life. This is why we use the word loss.
*BUT there are ways to increase a person’s resiliencies so that they will be less likely to conclude suicide as their only option.
5 PREVENTATIVE MEASURES FOR SUICIDE
Love and actively listen to them.
Live your life in a way that promotes others seeking you out as someone who is full of love, acceptance, and forgiveness so they can escape from feelings of loneliness, rejection, and shame.
Be a beacon of acceptance through active listening. Not the kind where you are watching your favorite show and occasionally perform a nod of affirmation in the person’s general direction. The kind where you find yourself lost in the eyes and tears of another human being; engaged in a silent embrace while another weeps; at the bedside of a distressed child.
Engage them in your community.
Belonging is a survival need. Some time ago there was an experiment on monkeys performed by Harry Harlow. Among many other things, this study concluded that monkeys who are socially isolated develop critical psychological impairment. One monkey after being brought back from isolation into society of other monkeys, isolated itself to the extent of starvation and died. Responsibility, belonging, community, family…these are underestimated resources of suicide prevention.
Include others who are alone into your friend groups. Be patient and forgiving of them or guide them to someone who can be patient and forgiving of them.
Give them responsibilities/stewardship over another living thing [plant, animal, person]. Get them a pet.
Even if a person feels unworthy of living, they can still appreciate discovering their ability to care for another living thing — a pet. This can be deeply therapeutic for those who have been taught by their traumas that human beings are not to be trusted or attached to. Animals or plants can offer the person an opportunity to attach to a living thing. This is partly why I believe Equine therapy is so incredibly effective for those suffering from childhood traumas.
There was a prophet who explained this principle simply — that every person needs three things, “a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with ‘the good word of God’”. The people I have provided therapy for who are resilient against thoughts of suicide share these in common. They have at least one friend, a responsibility and drive to serve another human being, and some kind of spiritual nourishment built into their daily schedule. I understand many I work with are not into religion, but I speak of nurturing the core un-observable parts of your person, this is spirituality. Nourishing that identity is vital to survival as well. Some find it more helpful to view spirituality in terms of self esteem or self worth, and that this attribute is made better through adherence to ethical or moral codes of conduct.
Help them overcome barriers to getting psychological treatment.
Some are afraid to address or face the facts of their story. Some facts are indeed terrifying to harrow up into our mind’s eye. Help them understand that as they work with a skilled therapist, they will be taken care of. You, as a client, can determine/control the speed, length, and intensity of treatment. [insurance companies are less understanding of these time frames due to the primary motivation being that they go out of business if they reimburse too much – just one of the reasons I do not accept insurance].
While a therapist holds no power to change the facts of your story — a limitation we all share — they can be very skilled at helping you discover the healing power of your story.
Ask them what part of their story they want to kill.
If people had complete control over their story, they would not choose to die.
People want to kill a part of their story– a fact(s) in their story line — not themselves.
This is why I ask people what part of their story they want to get rid of, rather than why do you want to kill yourself. It gets them thinking about the possibility that they are recoverable, even if they have experienced significant unrecoverable loss as a part of their story.
Where there is life, there is hope!
The title of this article is discovering preventative measures. One of those measures not mentioned was the power of community and spirituality that music can bring.
“Liv-a-cide” is a song I wrote after years of seeing how rampant suicide is in our society. It is about the suicidal person who makes the most difficult choice they have had to make yet: choosing each day to live. Many people feel lost or alone. My message is that being lost or alone is alwaystemporary. Finding belonging is just on the other side of courageously committing liv-a-cide!
Take courage and commit “liv-a-cide”!
Tonight I’m sneakin’ those pills back to the bottle // Tonight I’m spittin’ out that liquor burnin’ throat // Tonight I’m stepping off that ledge onto a platform // With people all around // cause I’m choosin’ to be found…
Tonight I’m throwin’ those razors to the trash can // Tonight my arms and legs aren’t waitin’ to be hurt // Tonight I’m findin’ the strength to face my demons // with no hope to be found // cause I’m gonna stick around…
Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight // Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight
Tonight I’m takin’ down that noose from off the rafters // Tonight I’m swingin’ to the beat of my own drum // Tonight I’m finding my purpose as I make it // Just because I’m feelin’ down // doesn’t mean I won’t be found…
Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight // Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight // Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight // Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight.