The fact is that most people who are suicidal are pretty ambivalent about whether they want to live or die.
As someone who has experienced suicidal thoughts and has had the opportunity to work with a number of people who are experiencing suicidality, I can tell you with some authority that the biggest misconception is that people who are contemplating suicide want to die. It’s a bit more complicated than that.
Like all things, suicide means different things to different people. Always, a loss by suicide is a tragic loss. Suicidal thoughts come on a large spectrum though. It can be an annoying thought at the back of the brain. For some it might be a warm, dark cavern. For me, the thoughts were like an unwanted visitor who came to stay in my brain on occasion and I couldn’t seem to figure out if the visitor was sprouting fact or fiction to me. And the thoughts may be triggered by many number of things.
It might be pain, loneliness, and hopelessness. With duration and intensity these feelings might make us feel desperate and, in those desperate moments, our thoughts become distorted. It becomes easy to believe that the feelings of those moments will never improve, and suicide may seem like a possible answer.
It might be that isolation builds and builds and depression begins to completely overwhelm everything. Even happy memories. Everything that went before, and everything that is has become tainted. While the reality is that feelings and depression can and will pass, terrified minds become clouded and heavy with one thought and one thought only: the pain felt in this moment will never end.
Regardless of what is going on for someone, wanting to die is almost never normal. Most people never contemplate suicide.
The reasons people think about suicide are really, really varied. And I totally understand how they could be misunderstood. Because, to the average person, it makes no sense. Our bodies instinctively protect themselves from danger. We immediately pull our hands back from something hot. It’s without thought; our bodies do it automatically.
Furthermore, how could anyone give up the chance to get better? The answer is very straightforward: people who are contemplating ending their life do not believe it will ever get better.
The reality is that for a lot of the people who are contemplating suicide they probably aren’t looking for reasons to die. Instead, they are looking for a way to make the pain stop.
Most of the time, people who die by suicide don't want to actually die. They just don't want to be alive, and there is a huge difference.
The problem, of course, is that the assumption is wrong. The rational mind is not working very well here. If we are in a place where we believe that the only option is to do the opposite to what we were put here to do – survive – than something is not working properly in our mind.
As always, talking and learning about suicide is so important but it can bring up some really tough emotions. Please take care of yourself and reach out to a trusted family member, friend or one of the suggested crisis lines below if you need to talk about how you’re feeling.
Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au/gethelp
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelp.com.au
MensLine 1300 78 99 78 www.mensline.org.au