In my latest ViewPoint post about suicide attempt, I asked a couple of people what they think causes suicide, what age is too young to attempt suicide, how they would feel/react if a loved one attempted suicide and how they would respond to a loved one that attempted suicide. You can read all about it here.
As I wrote the ViewPoint post on Suicide attempt and did some reading, I became more informed about suicide attempt and suicide, and I decided to share what I know with you.
What is suicide attempt?
It’s an attempt where someone tries to take their life but survives.
Why do people die by suicide or attempt suicide?
One of the questions asked was what causes one to attempt suicide. Now, there are many reasons that would result in suicide attempt. Some of which are hopelessness, loss, feelings of anger, despair, panic, feelings of being stuck and trapped, certain mental health illnesses such as depression, psychosis and anxiety, personal crisis or life stress, e.g., divorce, helplessness, breakups, financial stress and trauma. Also certain illnesses like cancer and some medications can cause one to contemplate killing themselves.
However, there’s one thing that cuts across every reason before one finally goes ahead with taking their life or attempt suicide and that’s when they see no way out. This is described as tunnel vision.
Tunnel vision simply put is “when one looks at the future, sees only one option, and that option is bad”
You know what’s surprising? It’s the fact that someone other than them can see a way out of their situation, you even see hope and so much believe in it but to them, they don’t see it. It’s almost like a mind thing. All they know before they go ahead with suicide is that ‘there’s no other way to solve this but to end my life’. They believe after they do, they would find peace.
It’s also important to mention that it’s not about having everything to live for. This is because people may look at them from outside and see they have a nice career, a good home, things seem to be working for them and so they wonder why did they took their lives. Didn’t they have something to live for, what of their friends and family? What of their kids?
Sometimes, it’s not about that. They don’t think that way, they don’t see all those things, they think that their dying is more logical. Like I said, it’s mostly a thing of the mind. It’s often an act made during a storm of strong emotions and life stresses rather than after careful consideration.
That’s why sometimes, when someone feels the strong urge to kill themselves and they are distracted for some minutes, eg., a friend knocks or the cover of the tablet they want to use to overdose is hard to open, they can come out of it. Why? This because it came strongly on them but somehow was delayed and now it’s left them.
What age is too young for one to attempt suicide?
The second question I asked was what age is too young for one to attempt suicide. The truth is, there’s no particular age as anything can cause one to die by suicide. Suicide is the second highest cause of death among people between the age groups of 15-24 in America. Did you know that 1 in 100,000 children between the age 10 – 14 die by suicide each year? I would provide statistics in Nigeria but unfortunately, I didn’t come across one. The truth is, suicide is not just for old people or youths, even children attempt suicide so no age is too young for suicide attempt or suicide.
How do people feel when a loved one attempts or dies by suicide?
The third question I asked was how one would feel if their loved ones died by suicide or attempted suicide. Normally people would feel bad, sad, devastated, crushed, angry, embarrassed, hopeless, guilty and even depressed. When you ask why they feel this way, they’d usually say they didn’t see the signs, they didn’t know they were going through a lot or they wished they could have done something about it, perhaps, given them hope, be kinder and so on.
These people begin to ponder and internalize a lot of unhealthy things. They ask questions like ‘why didn’t they mention they were struggling’, ‘why did they have to go? That is so selfish’, ‘didn’t they love me enough to stay?’, ‘Didn’t we show them that we loved them enough’, ‘were we not good enough? Didn’t we do everything we could?’, ‘I wish I didn’t act the way I acted the other day if I knew it would be the last time seeing them’, ‘how do I face the fact that this person is gone?’ and so many questions keep coming forth.
It’s easy for one to say that you shouldn’t blame yourself if you lost someone by suicide. The truth is a lot of things are going through your head and you feel you could have prevented it, you could have stopped it, if only you paid close attention to them. It is true that sometimes the signs are there and we could have missed it but there are also suicide that defies prediction.
Sometimes, one couldn’t have known that someone is struggling. This is because these people seem so happy, they seem to have everything together and do things that wouldn’t make you suspect they are struggling, only to hear one day that they killed themselves. With cases like that, there’s really nothing that you could have done.
What can help is always praying for your loved ones and friends. Pray about their mental health and emotional well-being. There are some people that would never open up to you concerning some of their struggles and this could be because of shame or they don’t want their perfection to be distorted.
Sometimes they don’t do it intentionally, it’s how their past experiences in life has wired them to think and behave. This is why you’ll continually tell someone you’re always there if they need to talk and they never ever open up. It takes patience for them to trust you to do so and some really never open up. What matters is that you’re always there for the person and the person knows it. Know this though, you can never force someone to open up to you and that’s fine, it’s not about you. It’s more about them than you. Be patient.
Another one people think about is what they could have done better, knowing that they saw the signs. Some people that attempt or die by suicide usually display signs and that’s helpful because we know how to be there for them, we know how to support and help them. Sometimes we do all we can and yet we lose them. If that’s you, you’ll definitely feel guilt and it’s easy for me to say don’t feel that way but the truth is, you tried all you could.
Is there more you could have done, like getting closer or being more supportive and all? Well, maybe but there’s more to people dying by suicide than what is really seen. You tried all you could and it’s not healthy to keep pushing the blame on you. When you do so, ask God to help you get rid of this guilt and let God’s peace overwhelm you. Know this though, you tried all you could.
There’s also a set of people that feel anger, they ask why they had to leave them and they think they are selfish for doing so. Some also feel that those that attempt suicide do it for attention. All these are wrong. Like I mentioned earlier, a major reason people attempt or die by suicide is because they see no way out of their problem.
‘Suicide attempts are not a cry for attention but a cry for help’
When we think these people are selfish for killing themselves, sometimes they don’t think so. Some people attempt suicide because they feel they are a burden to their family and the best option is to die. Some also feel they are causing people pain and they just want to end it. Some single mothers that attempted suicide sometimes did so because they felt they couldn’t give their kids a good life and their kids are better off without them. So they decide to take their lives, hoping their kids would find a better life; better care with someone. That doesn’t make sense to you right? Well that doesn’t matter, it makes sense to them and that’s all they know.
Finally, people think suicide attempt or those that die by suicide feel like they are not loved or cherished. As much as that is true for some, some however know that they have people that love and care for them and so it might not necessarily be a case of not being loved. We can guess why people kill themselves and attempt suicide, we can speculate but the truth is, we might never understand and it just might not make sense. All they know at that time is it’s the only way out!
How to respond to a suicide attempt by a loved one
The last question asked was how they would respond if they found out that their loved one attempted suicide and all they answered were valid.
When someone attempts suicide, the last thing you want to do is blame and shame them. Instead, be patient with them, show them love, encourage them to go and see a professional. You can also let them know that you care, reaffirm them and let them know that it’s okay to share with you. Give them a safe space and if what they say is overwhelming and it’s something you don’t know what to do, you can simply listen.
Also guys, it’s not wrong to ask people about their mental health. Especially someone that is suicidal or has attempted suicide. Suicide attempt is a thing and you just might not know but someone close might have attempted suicide or have thought of suicide.
As Christians, we are born into a new life, a life with Christ. This means that we have taken the life of Christ. Although in a fallen world and things like suicidal ideation may come to our minds, we should know that’s not a life that Christ wants us to live. There’s freedom in Christ, we now have a new life in Him. So though these thoughts may come, we take courage knowing that we are not alone and there is power to overcome.
Whatever the case is with your mental and emotional health, suicide attempt, suicide or even suicide ideation, know that you have Victory already and God is mindful of you, He has a plan for you and He loves you.
Also, it’s not by our own strength but by God’s own strength because the bible tells us that God’s strength is made perfect in our weaknesses and so we should boast in our weaknesses, including knowing that we cannot get through this alone.
Surround yourself with loved ones and believers you can lean on. Those that will support you with the word and prayers because I understand that there are days we honestly don’t have the strength to pray and that’s okay.
If you know you’re struggling, open up to someone you trust that could help you. Remember that you don’t have to carry the burden alone.
Finally, always pray for your loved ones, your neighborhood, your church; the church, and your friends. Also pray for your enemies, they too need salvation and freedom.
‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and of a sound mind’2 Timothy 1:7
Below are some suicide helplines you should contact if you’re feeling suicidal or someone you know is.
Nigeria Suicide Prevention Initiative – NSPI
Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative
In case you’re interested in knowing more, below are the citations for the article and some links that may be helpful.