‘If someone’s really suicidal enough, they’ll just do it. They won’t tell anyone, they won’t ask for help.’ Ideas like this get thrown around on the internet, by people from various walks of life. I don’t like it. It devalues the experience of people who do ask for help, who look into the darkness and reach for one last lifeline. It also devalues the experience of every person that experiences suicidal thinking.
What does it mean to be serious about suicide? From where I stand, anyone that’s thinking like that is a pretty serious event. Suicidal thinking is a big deal, ok? It’s like cancer. It can be so slow-moving that something else comes along and gets you first, and it can kill you the day you find out about it. It’s a potentially fatal illness, and anyone who writes it off is uneducated and a fool.
If someone has moved from suicidal ideation into planning it out, then things are yet more serious. This is the point where ‘if you’re serious you’ll just go to it’. And if that’s your thinking, then you invalidate the experience of those who have been in the depths of despair, who have their pills lined up or a noose around their neck, and decide to reach out one last time.They were serious, they had nearly completed their path, but something held them back. Some small glimmer of feeling outside the blackness, and they walked toward it. Telling them that they weren’t really serious is a kick in the teeth.
What about those who complete suicide? They must have been serious, right? No. Much of the time, these were people who had reached out for help, perhaps more than once, and in that moment nothing had come, and they died. There aren’t many people who just walk out and kill themselves. There’s signs, there’s a history, there’s calls for help. Those who are “serious” about dying, and the first thing anyone knows about it is finding them dead, are kakapo – hard to find, and very rare.
So don’t insult people with varying experiences of suicidal thinking. What they are going through is a life and death matter. It doesn’t have to conform to any narrow view of what is and is not “serious”. Talking about it in those terms just makes you look uninformed. Perhaps you should enter the 21st century?