Growing up, I was always told by my parents to be home by supper. As soon as the school bus dropped me off, I was out the door with my bike, riding around, playing with whoever else was also outside before supper. After supper I went back out, and was told to be home by dark.
My father used to be a big game hunter. We had a huge gun case full of rifles, bows and arrows in the den. That huge wooden case was always locked. It had me curious, but I could not open that cabinet unless I decided to break the glass, and knew I’d be in trouble if I did! If that was today, I wonder if things would be different. I wonder if my parents, knowing all that has happened at schools today, would still even have that gun case in our den.
In junior college, a mutual friend committed suicide. The night before, he called my friend. My friend and his mother talked with him. We all had been out that night. He was under the influence of alcohol, and had just gone through a relationship break up. There were pills in the house. The next day we were waiting around the halls of a hospital. My friend wanted me to sit in a secluded corner with him, and was asking why his friend had to do this. It was not my friend’s fault. My friend was not trained in how to notice the signs and symptoms of someone who was suicidal. He had told his friend he’d come over to his house in the morning, and his friend had responded with, “okay”. It wasn’t okay.
A few years ago a friend was in chronic physical pain. He showed no signs, nor said anything to anyone. He took his life in his apartment. He left a letter for his family.
Last Friday at our monthly CEU training through our local counselors chapter, a group of teenagers from Tampa Catholic School performed a play on suicide awareness at Hillsborough Community College’s Dale Mabry campus. They covered suicide, reasons people choose suicide, and school shootings. They also depicted how to find hope.
Immediately following their insightful play, they answered our questions in such a way that made me think, “I never thought so deeply about topics like this during high school.” I thought how drastically things have changed. These 17 and 18-year-olds were now forced to think more deeply. They are growing up seeing and looking at the things that are going on around them like we did not have to growing up. A good handful of them raised their hands when asked if they had thought about going into our field, if any of them had suicidal thoughts, or had lost a friend to suicide. Tears were shed by the students, and many of us.
After such an insightful play that brought up emotions, we were then notified about the school shooting in Texas. Everything that they had just said and represented in that play, and in their insightful answers to our questions, really hit home. If I haven’t mentioned it before, as I say it a lot, everything you say and do affects somebody else. A point made during the play was that a sometimes a commonly used comment of, “Why don’t you just kill yourself?” really has resulted in people following through with it.
Many of the school shootings are due to bullying, name calling, someone not feeling like they fit in, getting stuck in grief and loss of someone else, finding it hard to deal with school pressures, not having anyone to talk to, or being scared to talk to anyone. It is also highly prevalent amongst the LGBTQ+ community—dealing with identity struggles at a young age.
Things have gone outside the classroom with cyber bullying, and something called, “The Blue Whale Challenge”. This internet, “game” challenges people to take steps to the point at the end of the game where they are then challenged to commit suicide. This awful challenge has taken 100 lives last counted. The developer of this game is now in jail. Not only has childhood changed, but the internet has certainly changed many things, and it just doesn’t seem for the better.
Whether any of the above resonates with you, or sounds like someone you know, what can we do?
Support is needed. Younger or older, many are afraid to speak out and go to their peers. Their peers then carry that load around if someone does come to them, and they don’t know what to do with it. This is why this play was so important to perform in front of a group of therapists. We know what to do with it, and it is one of the topics we are consistently trained on. If you have even the slightest concern that professional support is needed, for yourself or someone else, PLEASE reach out. If any signs of depression are there, support is needed. We need to catch this before there is another loss.
Know where to go. Call me here, or any other counselor. Call the Suicide Hotline. Call 911. Go to your nearest emergency room. Please don’t hesitate. Scroll down for more information and the phone numbers you need.
Know the signs. Take any talk of suicide seriously. Do you see depression? Has there been a recent loss? Do you see a lack of taking care—unkempt hair or clothes? Do you see isolation? Do you see someone never smile, or walk around with their head down? Is this you? Any sign of depression could be a sign of suicidal thoughts. Take all signs seriously.
What someone might say. “I’m thinking about killing myself.” “Things will be better when I’m gone.” “I can’t deal with this pain anymore.”
What will we ask you? “Have you ever thought you’d be better off dead?” “How often do you think this?” “What did it look like then?” “What about now?” “Do you have a plan?” “Do you have the means to carry out that plan?” “Do you have support?” These are some examples of the questions we will ask you, or anyone else that has suicidal thoughts. We will not bombard you with these questions as listed above back-to-back. We know to be sensitive. We want to know where you are. We will work with you on your self esteem, coping skills, and give or get the support needed. If you were able to answer any of the above questions with, “yes”, or answer them in detail, PLEASE reach out, call 911, get to the nearest emergency room, or call the suicide hotline.
It is not your fault. Many things can lead people to suicidal thoughts. The best thing to do realize they are there, and address them with a professional. We don’t always know what to do with what life throws at us. We just know we want the hurting to stop. If you feel suicidal, or you notice signs in someone else, take those thoughts and actions seriously.
Keep communication open. Listen. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life. If you are feeling suicidal, or you know someone who is suicidal, please read this, or call 1-800-273-8255 in the United States. To find a suicide helpline outside the U.S., please visit IASP or Suicide.org
People do not wear signs. We cannot read people’s minds. We can have trouble controlling our thoughts and feelings.
We can learn to notice the signs. We can ask questions. We can seek out help.
As always, please feel free to reach out, or share this with someone who you feel could benefit from it.
1. Support is needed.
2. Know where to go.
3. Know the signs.
4. What someone might say.
5. What will we ask you?
6. It is not your fault.
7. Keep communication open.