The suicide of Anthony Bourdain this week has been much on the mind of so many people. Every time a suicide happens we seem to revisit the same feelings as if they were new – once again we wish that he might have found a way to reach out and ask for help – we all know that the help would have been there for him.
But is that enough?
No – it’s far from being enough.
A friend was talking with me recently about a depressed episode he went through some years back. He had this to say:
‘We all need to know there’s someone willing….wanting!….to listen so that we can ask for help. At least that was my personal experience. I never asked for help when I thought no one wanted to listen’
To sit back and wait for someone to open up to us about their suffering – to declare that we don’t want to invade their space or seem rude – to decide that ‘they’ll talk about it when they’re ready’ – or to choose inaction because ‘we don’t really know what to say’ – is to absolve ourself of the responsibility of being human. I understand our national sense of reserve, and I understand that no-one has ever taught us how to have these conversations. There’s distance between people that can feel difficult to cross. But what I’m saying is that it’s not the responsibility of a person in pain to cross that distance alone. Always assume that people are coping with far more than they’re telling you about. If someone makes an attempt to reach out and tell you that they’re struggling – even if it seems like an off-hand or throwaway comment – the right thing to do is to reach right back in again.
I’m going to tip things up with this idea too – the people who should be best at this – who should be reaching back in again where there’s a need – are those of us who deal with mental illness every day. We have had these conversations with psychiatrists and therapists and nurses down the years. We have a language of mental suffering that we’re used to using and feel comfortable with. We’re used to professionals reaching back in to our distress. We can start to bring that gift to the people around us. We can start the conversation. There’s no separation between ‘diagnosis’ and ‘no diagnosis’ when it comes to the mental pain that kills people.
I’m reblogging a fantastic post about how to talk about suicide. Use the advice to reach back in long before someone is making suicidal plans. This advice is for everyone.
Suicide isn’t just someone else’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem writes Lindsay Holmes. Deaths by suicide, like the ones of designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain this week, are tragic reminders that mental health issues don’t discriminate based on success. Mental health problems can hide in plain sight ― sometimes to loved ones or even to the person who suffers […]