September is Suicide Awareness Month. Many of us have experienced the loss of a friend or other loved one to suicide, and we know that thinking about it can bring on strong feelings of hurt, anger, and confusion, even after many years have passed. Despite this, however, and perhaps even more importantly because of it, I encourage each of you to join with me in taking a few minutes to learn more about suicide.
While certainly not true in all cases, a person may exhibit warning signs that they are thinking about, or planning suicide. It’s important to have some awareness of potential warning signs, in case we notice them being displayed by someone in the future. However, it’s equally important to recognize the truth that while in hindsight, we may be able to point to comments or behaviors of someone who committed suicide and condemn ourselves for not paying more attention, or for not taking more action to try to protect them, it is not your fault that someone you cared about committed suicide. When someone has committed suicide, by definition, they have made their own decisions and carried out their own actions that resulted in their own death.
People who study suicide have compiled lists of risk factors that may make it more likely that a person will try to harm himself or herself. While it’s important to recognize risk factors, it’s also important to understand that many people have these risk factors and never try to harm themselves. Having the risk factors does not mean that a person will try to commit suicide. What it does mean is that, among those people studied, who tried or completed suicide, these factors turned up with some degree of statistical significance. In other words, awareness of risk factors is important because it helps us to recognize those who might need extra support, encouragement, and care. As with warning signs, however, it’s important to recognize that in hindsight, we may be able to identify risk factors of someone who has committed suicide and we may tend to condemn ourselves for not doing more to try to protect them, but it is not your fault that someone you cared about committed suicide. As desperately as we might want to, we cannot control what someone else decides to do.
The links below are being provided as resources for more information.
Most importantly, if you are considering suicide, please don’t do it. Please do reach out for help. Call Crisis Services of North Alabama at 256-716-1000, call me at 256-544-7549, call your health professional, call a friend or a family member, or call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), for assistance.