Following the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, there’s been a flood of posts about the topic on social media. I thought I’d chime in.
Firstly — it’s upsetting that it requires someone “high-profile” to take their life in order to get suicide in the spotlight. As in Australia alone, eight people take their lives per day. But none the less, it’s being spoken about and that’s what matters.
I could post the important hotlines, but I want to offer a bit more. I’ve written about suicide before — following the death of Chester Bennington and the young cousin of a friend. But I’m not a professional of any sorts. I’m writing from personal experience here.
I’ve lost a friend to suicide, worked in the mental health industry, been involved in online support communities, and even had the thought pass through my mind on several occasions — starting at the age of 22 all the way up to two weeks ago.
The important thing is that I recognise these feelings as fleeting (I’ve never had a plan of action. It’s nothing more than a thought.) I compare them to storms. Storms strike, but they never stay. As experienced during a storm, as the ‘darkness’ becomes more encompassing, there’s a loss of perspective. You can’t see anything except for what’s in front of you — whatever is right here and immediate. Which to a suicidal person, is pain.
This is how someone like Anthony or Kate who has “insert all reasons to live and great things they’ve accomplished” can still take their life. They simply can’t see these reasons to live. In that moment, death is seen as a form of ‘shelter’. Rather than seeking to die, one seeks to escape.
I don’t know if this was the definite case with Anthony or Kate, but suicide is widely recognised as impulsive. A recent OnBeing Podcast episode, Suicide and Hope for Our Future Selves, goes into detail referencing research that found that suicidal people who go to bridges and find safety nets or barriers, go home rather than finding another bridge. There’s also an ABC You Can’t Ask That episode where people who have attempted suicide say similar things.
During these storms I always do everything I can to look beyond and through the clouding of my thoughts. There are many different prevention strategies and self-care steps one can take. But for the sake of keeping things short, I’m going to highlight one specifically: Turning to others. Doing this helps shift my focus from my faults and mistakes — whatever is bringing me down — to the things that are right. To the things that still exist. To brighter visions of the future.
Even outside of suicidal ideation, this is something we need more of: Reminding one another that we matter. Of the wonderful things we see in each other.
There’s more too it. Suicide is a complex issue. But this is my chime into the conversation and I hope it resonates. I hope it helps people to better understand their feelings, what others experience, and what we can do to help one another.
The photo used isn’t of a storm, rather a sun rise. I took it two weeks ago when I was going through that tough stretch of my own. I took the day off work and went out to stay by the coast, getting up the next morning at 5.15am to watch the new day awaken. I often do this to remind myself that the sun always rises.
Please stay safe. Learn to recognise the signs of worsening weather and seek shelter through other people.