Talk to anyone who has experienced suicide in their family and they will tell you it has changed their lives forever.
Many people know the tragedy of suicide. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and white males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016. Over 45,000 deaths occur every year due to suicide, making this not only a mental health issue but a public health one as well.
Statistics don’t really tell the story, however, until it hits close to home. What is the impact on the family when a loved one commits suicide? Suicide is devastating and the effects of suicide on family members can be severe and far-reaching.
Consider some of the effects on family and friends of someone who has committed suicide:
- False guilt for not preventing the suicide
- Feelings of failure
- Anger and resentment at the person who committed suicide
- Extreme and long-lasting sadness and loss
Death by suicide is much more complicated than natural death from health issues. Loved ones are often afraid to talk about the suicide because of the stigma attached to it. They fear being judged and blamed for the suicide. They struggle to know how to talk openly about it and subsequently they tend to keep silent and feel profound isolation.
Recently a writer sent a question addressing the issue of suicide.
Dear Dr. David,
My husband has recently told me that he has considered suicide, but decided against it. He is a Christian and is a worship leader at our church. He’s told me in the past that he has also attempted suicide when he was in high school. His parents do not even know about this.
He thinks that he does not have a problem and that it is normal for people to go through this type of depression from time to time. He tells me that I am the only one who can fix his depression and that it is my fault that he feels this way because I am not affectionate enough and I do not thank him for every single thing that he does.
I believe that he and I really, really need some counseling, but he says that this is not something that you can throw counseling or pills at. He believes that I am solely responsible for fixing this and I am just not sure what to do.
I really appreciate Stephanie’s candor in talking about her fears of suicide. While it is true that feelings about suicide are common, and threats of suicide are prevalent, talking about it is generally taboo. Her openness and willingness to talk to her husband about it are likely to lessen the likelihood of it occurring. Let’s consider other aspects of her email:
First, a history of suicide attempts increases the possibility of it occurring in the future.
Studies show that a history of suicide attempts is a positive predictor of possible attempts in the future and thus should be taken very seriously. We should never be afraid to talk to others about suicide nor hesitate to ask if they have considered suicide.
Second, while suicidal ideation is common with many people, it is concerning and should be taken very seriously.
Suicidal ideation is a very serious symptom. While many have considered suicide, talking openly about it takes away some of the shame and opens one up for receiving help.
Third, keeping suicidal feelings a secret is a mistake.
Facing suicidal feelings and the issues one is facing helps bring problems into the light and opens up the possibility for intervention. Don’t be afraid to talk about your suicidal feelings or to ask a loved one about it if you have any concerns that suicide could be on their mind.
Fourth, the person with suicidal feelings is ultimately responsible for their own healing.
While we can be helpful to one considering suicide, ultimately we cannot be responsible for someone taking their own life. It is very unfair for the husband in the above email to place the responsibility for his happiness and well-being on his mate. This is an unfair burden to place on them and highly inappropriate.
Finally, counseling and medication are helpful.
Fortunately, help is available for anyone struggling with depression and suicidal feelings and ideation. There are suicide hotlines, suicide prevention resources, and mental health services available for anyone struggling with suicidal feelings. Counseling and medications are helpful, as are support groups. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal feelings.
Do you know of someone struggling with suicidal feelings? Don’t be afraid to talk openly to them and assist them in getting the help they need. We are also available to help and would like to hear from you. We at The Marriage Recovery Center are prepared to walk with you through any challenges. Please feel free to contact me at MarriageRecoveryCenter.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: If you are struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, call the the National Suicide Hotline for help at 1-800-273-8255. This is a free, confidential resource that is available 24 hours a day.