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Does reading about suicide make you uncomfortable? How about talking about it? Does this discomfort mean you don't care - or that you care too much?
Suicide is an uncomfortable subject for most of us. With almost 40,000 Americans committing suicide each year, it is likely that nearly every one of us knows someone who has thought about, attempted or was successful at committing suicide. In fact, it is estimated that every suicide intimately affects at least six other people.
For most of us brought up in one religion or another, there exist two possibilities after death, depending upon how we lived our lives. We strive to live the lives that entitle us to entrance to a better place, a welcome afterlife. So if a loved one, who has led a good and meaningful life, commits suicide, where do they go? Are they entitled to heaven? Or is the final "sin" of suicide enough to invalidate all the good they have done?
Then there is the secrecy. Why didn't the person committing suicide confide in us? We could have stopped them, somehow. Or, perhaps they did say something, but we didn’t believe them. Why didn't they try harder to make us understand? Is it our fault if they go through with it? Is their act a personal reproach to us?
Those with depression tend to suffer quietly. To do otherwise is to be encouraged with the proverbial "pat on the back" and meaningless aphorisms; "it will all work out," "you'll be fine," "you just need to try harder." The serious pain suffered by the depressed person can often lead them to avoid these moments.
The recent death of Robin Williams, the comic genius, was something of a wake-up call. Here was a man with a brilliant career and a loving family who was suffering from depression and fought it - hard - for years. Perhaps it was his recent diagnosis of Parkinson's disease that was the final straw. Perhaps the fight just became too hard. Perhaps it was something else. That is what happens with suicide - too often, we don't really know why that moment of action is reached. And that is one more thing that makes us uncomfortable - the realization that we really didn’t know this person as well as we thought we did.
Maybe, ultimately, it is the guilt or the pain we are left with that is the most uncomfortable. To not be able to feel the pain of someone close to us, to not be able to see that this person needs relief from this pain - that leaves us as the failures.
In the time I have spent writing this article, two more people have committed suicide. That is an uncomfortable statistic.
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