Suicide survivors need help too
TUESDAY, JUL 9, 2013 09:37 AM CDT
We often call people who have lived through extreme experiences “survivors.” We bandy around the word with a promiscuous generosity, applying it not just to those who’ve endured deadly diseases and harrowing accidents and military combat and vicious crimes — we apply it liberally to those who’ve made it through potentially unsettling diagnoses and Catholic school. But there’s a class of individuals who’ve been in that dangerous place between life and death who don’t get a lot of celebratory annual dinners or 5K fun runs, who don’t have rubber bracelets or ribbons proclaiming their tenacity. Instead, they’re too often shrouded in shame and silence. They’re suicide attempt survivors.
Every 60 seconds, someone in this country tries to end his or her life. It’s estimated that 19 out of 20 people who attempt suicide fail
– but they are far likelier to succeed
when they try again. That population of people who’ve tried to kill themselves is a unique and disparate one. Some of its members are only still here reluctantly, biding their time until the next opportunity. Others have moved on and put their past attempts behind them. But few of them are granted the supportive openness that survivors of other life-changing events receive.
It’s ironic that people who successfully commit suicide are often romanticized as tragic heroes or the stars of poorly thought out fashion spreads,
while those who survive attempts frequently wind up bullied — or conspicuously ignored. To have a history of being suicidal – and the addiction/depression/bipolar disorder/post traumatic stress
that may have accompanied it – is still seen as shameful or, perhaps even worse, as no big deal. Note, for example, how Paris Jackson’s own family dismissed her recent hospitalization as “an overreaction”
and said that she just needs “to learn there are certain guidelines when you grow up.” But here’s the thing — if you ever think it’s even remotely acceptable to give an individual crap for trying to end his or her life, just remember, that how Joseph Stalin rolled.
Two years ago, JD Schramm gave a TED talk on the need for “breaking the silence” for suicide attempt survivors. In it, he talks about how there are “Very few resources available to someone who has attempted to end their life,” and notes, “Because of our taboos we’re not sure what to say … and that furthers that isolation.” His talk has been viewed nearly half a million times.