Whenever a celebrity dies by suicide, it seems like the entire internet collectively become mental health professionals, dishing out their idea of advice on how to save people from the same fate. Their advice typically focuses on the victim: “Call the suicide hotline! Reach out to a doctor!” I’m not sure that most of these people have ever felt the level of depression and darkness that leads to suicide. Asking someone having suicidal thoughts to call a hotline is not the answer. The goal needs to be to prevent someone from ever feeling so despondent that they feel like suicide is an option at all, not to step in at the last possible moment and hope for a miracle.
As a person suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, I have dealt with suicidal ideation for much of my life. It can be brought on by a multitude of triggers, varying in intensity from a simple bad day, to feeling completely abandoned by everyone in my life. If you were to ask most people suffering from BPD why they think about killing themselves, the answer is simple: “To make the pain stop.” We don’t necessarily want to die – in fact, death terrifies me. We just don’t have the coping skills to work through our own emotions, and the only way we can think to stop the pain is to stop the feelings altogether.
The times in my life when I don’t have to think about ending my life as a means to stop the pain is when the pain isn’t there, or when it’s tolerable. How can emotional pain be made more tolerable? It starts with you. The number one thing a person feeling despondent needs is to know that there are people in their life who care deeply about them.
Society places the burden of suicide prevention on the victims themselves, but we as friends and family need to be doing our part on a day to day basis, not only once it’s too late. A simple “Hey! How are you, I was just thinking about you!” text message can be a literal life saver. If more of my friends reached out like that, I know that I’d feel much more equipped to work through the feelings that lead me towards suicidal thoughts.
Show your friends and your family members that you care. Reach out, say hello, check in. Suicide prevention needs to start with you.