People are now back to back to work after a weekend of chocolate bunnies, shiny Easter eggs, and time with family and friends. As mental health and suicide prevention advocates, we have returned to stories of suicide. We don’t know the details yet, as to who the men are who we lost, but one died Saturday night in West Windsor and the other died Sunday night in Paterson — both suicides by train.
Easter was one of my happiest holidays to celebrate. Twenty-six years ago, I went into labor on Easter Sunday, and my son Kenny was born on Monday. His birthday fell on Easter Sunday a few times, so I started a neighborhood tradition of an Easter Egg hunt. The yard would be sparkling with bright colored plastic eggs until the neighborhood children got the OK to search. Within minutes, they were all snatched up amid smiles and giggles. This is what made me happy — to bring joy to others, to watch my own two children so happy among friends.
Holidays are different since Kenny’s death to suicide in 2009. Instead of waking to the joys of spring, I wake to see horrible articles about people with NO HOPE. We don’t know anything about these men yet, but we know they made their choice with unhealthy brains. They most likely felt that their friends, family and the world would be a much better place without them in it.
These tragic deaths reinforce our mission to save lives through mental-health and suicide-prevention education. Our country is facing a crisis, and we are only starting to talk about it. We need to be screaming the messages from rooftops, “NO ONE WOULD BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU IN THE WORLD! THERE IS HOPE FOR HEALING!”
One thing that mental health and suicide prevention advocates fear is contagion. When there is one suicide, there is fear that there will be more. Someone who is battling the depths of despair and sees suicide in the news sees death as a way out of their pain.
Remember, suicide is a symptom of an illness. How contagion is addressed now is we don’t talk about it. We treat this as a trespassing situation. What would happen, we wonder, if this was treated for what it really was: a very sad, tragic death of someone who is struggling with a mental disorder? The news article could share information on where to get help. People reading the news article could identify with the person and then further read that there is hope for healing and that mental disorders are 70-90% treatable. So very many people live normal, successful lives daily living with mental disorders.
People who die by suicide, do not want to die. They only want to make the pain go away. Stigma prevents them from asking for help. If you are concerned about someone, know that it is ok to ask them these questions: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” “Do you have a plan?” These two questions open up the conversation and could help someone, who is struggling, realize that others care. He/she can’t find the words within themselves to ask for help but if you ask the questions, it could be a relief that you recognize their pain and you want to stand by their side, to ensure he/she seeks treatment.
It sounds so simple. As we tell students when we give our Coming Up For AIR presentation in schools, THEY COULD SAVE A FRIEND’S LIFE if only we knew the signs and symptoms and how to respond.
Here is how to respond appropriately:
* Tell the person that you are concerned and want to help.
* Express empathy.
* Respect the culture of the person.
* Clearly state thoughts of suicide are common and that help is available.
* Tell them that thoughts of suicide do not have to be acted upon.
* Listen nonjudgementally.
Local resources include the New Jersey Crisis Hotline, 855-654-6735; National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255; Second Floor Youth Helpline of New Jersey, www.2NDFLOOR.org or 888-222-2228; PerformCare New Jersey, 877-652-7624 or www.PerformCareNJ.org; New Jersey Youth Resource Spot, www.NJYRS.org; and New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, www.NJAMHAA.org.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the families who lost a loved one this past weekend. We understand the pain their family is going through. To lose a loved one is tragic, no matter how the person died.
Attitudes In Reverse
Certified Youth Mental Health First Aider