This is a very serious post. I’ve just come back from the funeral of a teen suicide. I’m not going to go into any more detail than that and I’ve thought long and hard all week about writing this post, but I think it’s important. I’m also going to plug a book here, with good reason, so bear with me.
Any loss of life is just terrible. When a person takes their own life, to me it’s far worse. To think the person reached a state where they considered suicide the only option is just appalling, for all involved. Especially when that person has barely even begun their life. As a friend of mine, who used to be a high school teacher, said, “I always told the teens at school to keep in mind that it will get better than this.” And he’s right. So many people yearn for the halcyon days of their youth, but you couldn’t pay me to be a teenager again. It fucking sucks. It’s hard and you feel like you have no control over your life and no one understands the very real concerns you bear every day.
But once you get beyond those teen years and start taking responsibility for yourself as an adult, even if life is still shit, at least it’s your shit. As an adult you can make your own decisions. It’s never as hard as it is when you’re a teenager.
But of course, even when a person is all grown up and in charge of their own destiny, they can spiral down to feeling like there’s no way out. They have no other options and suicide is the only thing that makes sense. It’s not the case, and these people are clearly not in their right minds, lost to despair. It’s easy for us to say, “Never give up!” when we’re not the ones in the middle of the fight. But never stop reaching out. Sometimes people are failed by their friends or family, sometimes by the system, even as they’re desperately trying to get help. Sometimes everyone is doing the best they can and suicide is still the only option people can see. There are no easy answers. But never stop reaching out. There are always people somewhere who care.
What we can do is be there, show we care, show the person that there are other options. We have to recognise that the issues and problems the person is dealing with are very real for them. And here’s where I plug a book, because it’s something I think can really help. A while ago I was asked to donate an original story to an anthology called Hope. The publisher lost her son to suicide when he was only 18. She decided to make this book to raise awareness about suicide and to raise money for suicide related charities, and that’s why I’m plugging it now. All the stories are speculative fiction, and all work towards a hopeful ending. In between each story throughout the book are articles and information about suicide and suicide awareness – how to spot suicidal people who might be experts at hiding their distress, things you can do to help them and resources where you can get help.
Here are some of the things I learned from the book:
Approximately 1 million people die by suicide each year worldwide.
In 2006 there were 1,799 suicides recorded in Australia (a country of only 20 million people).
In 2008, 24% of all male deaths aged 15 to 24 were by suicide.
A person doesn’t need to have a mental illness to be suicidal.
The book has lists of causes for suicide, warning signs to look out for, how to help friends, myths and facts and more. There are essays from Beyondblue, Dr Myfanwy Maple and Mr Warren Bartik from the University of New England. All of this set between a great selection of stories by some excellent authors. I’m very proud to be a part of this book, because I think it really can help.
There’s a lot we can do about suicide, if we learn about it. There are lots of ways to learn more. You don’t have to buy the Hope anthology, of course, though it is a very good resource and all the profits from it go to suicide awareness. There are plenty of other resources out there. Below I’ll list some Australian places. Wherever you are, there will be similar organisations you can find, whether you have thoughts of suicide yourself or you’re concerned about someone else. Don’t just let it go and think it will all be okay. It very well might not be.
Beyondblue infoline – 1300 224 636 http://www.beyondblue.org.au
Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800 http://www.kidshelp.com.au
Lifeline – 13 11 14 http://www.lifeline.org.au
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467 http://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
Suicide is very real and it’s horrible. There are things we can do about it.