We walk around every moment of every day with our generalizations, assumptions, interpretations and limiting beliefs about everything, everyone and every place in this world. Most of what we carry are static and based upon our past experienced forged and burned into us from the days of our single digits. What I am about to unpack challenges a lot of what we know and hold to be concretely true. View this from our unique lenses, collaboratively, and we discover more clarity about why we endure so much discord on stress, suicide and hope.
Many of us have our personal interpretations we make of all the three of the above based upon our personal experiences and beliefs. What we tend to get back is some form of a response and that can bring certain feelings, emotions and thoughts up which make us feel very strongly in any which way about stress, suicide and hope.
Over the past demi-year, I have been vocal about my desire to speak directly about suicide, via online and in-person interactions. My open and direct approach to speaking suicide’s name has heightened silence, underscored importance of professional expertise, inflamed opinions, stirred confusion. I found it interesting that there were so many points of view on the single act of speaking suicide’s name. After all, I wasn’t forcing another to do the same. People started distancing themselves from me, or evading asking me about my work, rather just focusing on success or lack thereof, of it.
Eventually, I avoided it no longer and stated it, online and in person, more for me than anyone else; I was done being shy about it. I said:
I want to work with people that have thoughts of suicide.
Things snowballed from here.
I will specifically open up about my experience with folks from the Psychology and Personal development (Life coaching) community, along the way encountering individuals with a foot in both worlds. The flood gates opened for all the mixed Professional and personal points of view:
>> It is not your expertise, therefore, I wouldn’t encourage it.
>> Life coaches should not be helping suicidal people plan for the future.
>> As long as you are being clear that your work is not a substitute for professional help, you aren’t doing anything wrong/ illegal.
>> But what if someone dies? Won’t it be your fault?
>> Life coaching actually saved my life! I have had so many bad therapists that did more harm than good.
>> Therapy doesn’t always work.
>> You have a passion for this and you need to keep being that voice for people that have lost touch with theirs.
>> There are many people that need your help. Keep up the amazing work!
>> People that are suicidal cannot make clear decisions and shouldn’t be working with a Life coach; what you are doing it wrong.
>> You could go to jail if someone doesn’t like the work you are doing.
>> You are not trained to work with people that are dysfunctional; you may cause more harm than if you left well enough alone.
>> You are doing amazing work! Coaching helped me when I was depressed. Therapy and Life coaching can work together!
Even through it all, I sense something missing from all of the points of view. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, I witness this phenomena. It seems that when suicide comes up as a topic of conversation, the person is lost as part of the process. There is more or less this dominance of the topic of life or death, prolonging life rather than taking a moment to just listen to the person. Other points of view, if one does not have the professional expertise, defer, defer, defer. Okay, how about the facts?
Statistics, stress and fear, do not acknowledge the individual. Statistics, stress and fear make self-preservation of our internal knowledge and external comforts our priority. Statistics, stress and fear emphasize larger picture “preventative” strategies that still fall short of the end goal to reduce suicide rates. Statistics, stress and fear accomplish making people feel invisible, obsolete and weak. What these peoples’ points of view above revealed to me advantages and disadvantages in conversation maintaining said point of view may have with someone in a heightened emotional state. After all, the person in a heightened emotional states also has their internal knowledge and external comforts, too.
If we are doing everything right and within our power, in spite of all the research, clinicians, general practitioners, religious institutions and public awareness of mental health, why are suicide rates are at an all-time high, moreso than in the past 50 years?
What are we missing?
Compassion for the individual.
We have reduced individual lives to a matter of elongation rather than quality of life.
We have subjected individuals experience with suicide to a statistical probability.
We have created a fear-based and punitive strategy of working with a person with thoughts of suicide.
The suicide is being treated and not the person.
I am going to be out and open about this:
I have worked on the National Suicide Crisis Prevention line and we need no background in Psychology. What made me qualified to work a Noc shift, alone, was a 16 hour training in suicide intervention and a week’s worth of call shadowing and mine being monitored. That’s it. When you look at the Suicide Crisis Prevention Line, remember that those people are not superhuman. I am revealing this truth to you now.
I encourage you all to pause and consider what reasoning and personal experiences and beliefs are going into your stance on suicide?
In my spreading my niche of work, I have heard misconceptions and suppositions relayed to me from law enforcement, psychologists, Life coaches, civilians, before even asking me of my formal and informal experiences with suicide, that there are trained professionals in suicide already. I find that interesting that that is the prolific response. I started to become more curious and a question formulated in my mind —
What does being trained in suicide mean to each person as well as for a person that is unsure if suicide is on their mind?
What saved me in the end wasn’t seeking professional help, leaning on loved ones, making new friends, switching to a plant-based diet, exercising the government recommended weekly amount, or researching self-help.
What saved me in the end from jumping down the rabbit hole with my peaceful thoughts of wanting to end it all,
THIS is suicide intervention. THIS is what is missing. We each need a foundation of hope being a person unsure about having thoughts of suicide or a person that wants to help save lives from suicide. It is HOPE.
Viewing ours and others’ walks of life through a lens of hope allows us to tap into compassionate actions, compassionate words and compassionate intuitive forces we never thought we had.
True hope sheds light on strengths there that we never saw before.
True hope reveals that there is no clear, straight line to the horizon.
True hope lets us expand our stress.
True hope allows us to occupy space that is our birthright.
True hope buoys us in our darkest hours.
The wondering of how we can tap into that compassionate service to one another is key to sowing seeds of hope. If we aren’t sowing seeds of hope, what are we doing?