On the topic of suicide some say, “It’s never the answer.” Clearly it is. Suicide is the answer for an estimated 800,000 to one million people across the globe each year (Wikipedia). This includes soldiers on the front lines, traumatized by witnessing limbs torn from their torsos or those of their cherished friends. It’s the answer for college students, away from home, lonely and desperate, finding no purpose. It’s the answer for increasing numbers of the LGBTQ community who seek to end the torment brought on by a homophobic world. It’s the answer for the elderly, who simply don’t wish to live any longer without their soulmates. It’s the answer for rapidly swelling numbers of youth, tortured by their peers for being “different,” or sexually abused for years by trusted family members, or rejected by the same. It’s the answer for those who’ve lost their homes, their livelihoods and pride to a vicious economy. And so on.
In the spring of 1988, suicide was my brother’s answer after he’d been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. It was his way of stopping an excruciatingly intense loneliness, for stilling the voices that overtook his otherwise astute brain, for curbing another episode of being thrown in jail when found roaming the streets at night, or being straight-jacketed, or impulsively setting fires to family photos. In response, Glenn-David climbed fourteen flights of stairs to the roof of a building on Wilshire Boulevard and leapt to his death.
Suicide was my ex-husband’s answer last August. “I don’t wish to die,” Rick wrote in his final letter, “I just don’t wish to live anymore.” It was his answer to mental health problems that fueled his astronomical debt, abusive behaviors toward strangers and those he held most dear, repeated job loss, and much more. So Rick took his Colt, walked a few blocks from his apartment, and put a bullet to his head.
I don’t like it. We don’t like it. As much as it’s easier and more pleasant to deny, suicide is often an answer. This is our starting point: facing the harsh realities of a world in crisis —that life is incredibly difficult and escalating numbers of people are deliberately ending their lives. Unless we begin here, we can’t quell this monstrously complex worldwide epidemic.
It starts with dialogue and the courage to talk, write, and read about suicide. It starts by asking the hard questions: What layered factors contribute to suicide? How can I best help someone who’s depressed and/or suicidal? How can I best support survivors of suicide loss?
There are no easy answers. Only through acceptance of the truth, and by asking the hard questions, can we begin to transform this world into one in which suicide is no longer an answer for so many.