Every year, more than 800,000 people die by suicide and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt. These stats are according to the World Suicide Prevention Day 2017, website. Behind these statistics are the individual stories of those who have, for many different reasons, questioned the value of their own lives.
My individual story is not ‘special’ in the sense that (and as according to the stats), suicide occurs on a daily basis. I have never attempted to take my own life but I know of family members and friends who have. Luckily, none have managed to succeed. If not, I probably wouldn’t be in the position I am today. How selfish of me?
Most often people decide to commit suicide because they truly believe that everybody else will be better off without them. That is just one reason, everybody has their own reasons but that’s what my sister believed. My family hadn’t even known that she was experiencing suicide tendencies. She had begun acting out, ‘rebelling’ in a sense. We attributed it to immaturity and therefore didn’t entertain her rebellion.
I received the call that my sister had been admitted into hospital after she had been found unconscious in her car. She had overdosed on pills. I had to tell my parents that their youngest daughter was lying in a hospital bed after she had attempted to take her own life. The car ride there was dead silent. I watched as my parents aged a decade each.
My mother brushed back my sister’s hair and a pleaded for an answer as to why she would ever think of ending her life and she responded, ‘I didn’t think you guys would miss me.’ In that moment, all the anger died and guilt replaced its place. What if we hadn’t been so quick to dismiss her rebellion? Although she didn’t succeed in committing suicide, she had put her body in serious risk. We awaited for tests to confirm that she hadn’t permanently damaged her organs.
How could we have helped prevented this from happening:
- Be yourself and let the person know that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. Your concern is comfort enough.
- Listen to the person as they unload. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.
- Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm and accepting.
- Reassure the person by offering them hope in any shape and form.
- Take the person seriously.
- Argue with the person and avoid using cliches like “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or “Look on the bright side.
- Promise confidentiality. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe.
- Offer ways to fix their problems.
- Blame yourself.
For help call SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group) on 0800 21 22 23.
Lifeline on 082 231 0805 or 0861 322 322