In February, 2014, Charlotte Dawson, alone in her Sydney apartment, committed suicide. Although I didn’t know her personally, I know some people who did. Those people have joined the thousands in Australia and all over the world, who will live the rest of their lives with the question why echoing through their minds every time they think about the death of their loved one. I know how they feel, I belong to this exclusive club no one wants to join.
Every time someone kills themselves, it pricks at the wound in my heart, leaving the tender skin bleeding again. The loss of a vital, special, unique human being is a tragedy, especially when the tragedy might have been preventable.
The dialogue around such a death always includes a warning that we mustn’t talk about it, because discussing suicide encourages others to take their own lives. The media, citing old studies and questionable research, reminds us that suicide is contagious.
It is time for this worn-out argument to be dismissed.
Instead of glossing over the way someone died, I think we should tell the truth. People who kill themselves, don’t slip quietly and pleasantly into an eternal sleep. Any method of dying is painful and traumatic. Struggling for breath, vomiting, losing control of your bodily functions, a bullet ripping through flesh, the snapping of bones and the severing of nerves — none of this is glamorous or romantic. Suicidal people search for relief — we should be reminding them how horrific death can be, not pretending that the corridor between life and death is filled with soft music and candlelight.
But what of those people who are encouraged to follow in the footsteps of someone famous who took their own life?
I believe we overestimate the power of suggestion. If the media, films, books, speeches and songs had the power to change people’s desires, we would be able to convert entire nations to a single religion or a political party. At the very least, we could transform depressed* people into happy ones, with the power of our words.
Healthy people don’t contemplate ending their lives, going on a school shooting rampage, or brutally assaulting a stranger in the street just because they hear about other people doing it. The people who are at risk of committing suicide are still at risk no matter what other people do or say.
The greatest of these risks is that we still perpetuate the myth that there is something shameful about feeling depressed or overwhelmed. While people remain too embarrassed to tell their partner, their boss, their friends and their colleagues that they can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, that ending it all seems a viable option, then we will continue to lose our family, our friends and celebrities to suicide.
The stigma of depression is far more damaging than speaking the truth.
This stigma is what we must focus on ending – one conversation at a time.
[*Not all depression is a mental illness. See this article which distinguishes between reactive and endogenous depression as well as giving excellent advice about suicide in general. Please read it if you are concerned about this issue.]
If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide contact
beyondblue 1300 22 46 36, Lifeline 13 11 14 or Salvo Care Line 1300 36 36 22.
16 thoughts on “Suicide – why silence does more harm than good”
Agreed Katie. I think getting depression out in the open is a great step towards being able to manage it. This has been my personal experience.
Thanks for your comment Liz. I don’t envy your struggle with depression but I do admire your determination to take care of yourself.
I agree with you, Katie. The more we talk about the horror of taking your own life and the factors that push people towards doing so, the more aware we can become.
Thanks Corinne for your support ♥
A perpetuated myth. The saddest thing I have ever seen is the trust of someone reaching out, broken, but it happens none-the-less. A slow death is no less painful than suicide and far more prevalent.
Your comment reminds me of the sacred responsibility of holding someone’s trust. Thank you.
I agree with K, and building upon that there are so many kinds of suicide. Self-neglect—even when ended the damage might already be done
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Pia.
Beautifully written and all too true…
Thank you Laura x
Thanks for telling the truth about suicide–I haven’t read anything with this angle, ever. Good piece and can help many.
Thank you Carol x
Please contact a professional via a suicide hotline. There will be one no matter which country you’re in.
Lots of love x
I am not a middle-aged man with a wife and kids though. I am a 10 year old little girl, and I want to kill myself because my big sister always bullies me, but before you tell me to talk to anyone about it, I must tell you this, I’m too afraid to tell anyone, I’m scared of what they will say, and I’m scared because if I tell anyone, I’ll probably get bullied because of it. The only thing stopping me from commiting suicide is the fact that I don’t want to upset my friends or family, especially not my 4-year-old little brother Leo and my baby sister Prue, who is almost one.
I don’t know you but my heart loves you! It may feel like you are alone, but I am standing right there beside you with Mt arms ready to wrap around you and give you a warm safe hug. Even though it may not feel so I promise there are people who love you love you would be lost without you.
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