You’re probably thinking, “Why would I want to make a dour, gloomy, depressing subject like suicide a household word?”
Talking about suicide does not give someone the idea.
The idea is already in their heads.
By repeating it, taking it out of the dark and putting it in the spotlight, we give people permission to reach out, we remove the secrecy and stigma and make the idea look like a less logical solution.
Just as important as talking about it, is the listening part
Listening is a skill we don’t do enough of. We tend to lecture our teens for example. Has that ever worked? Makes parents feel like they are doing their job. But the kids? They tune you out.
It’s important that when you listen, you don’t invalidate how people feel. Think how this irritates you when you say that you feel sad, and someone tells you shouldn’t feel that way.
“Emotional invalidation” is when a person’s thoughts and feelings are rejected, ignored, or judged. Invalidation is emotionally upsetting for anyone, but particularly hurtful for someone who is emotionally sensitive such as a person that suffers from depression.
Phrases like, “get over it”, “don’t be sad”, “it could be worse you know”, “happiness is a choice”, “there’s no reason to be angry”, “why would you get upset about that”, “that’s not a big deal” all communicate invalidation.
Refusing to acknowledge someone else’s feelings perpetuates thoughts of suicide because they are then bottled up. You’ve stated you do not want your day ruined with someone else’s baggage even if that is not what you meant.
Once you listen, the next move is to let someone know how important they are to you. If you want some guidance on having a conversation about suicide, here is a guide in multiple formats that will give you some direction.
We are not going to prevent every suicide. But we can prevent a lot of them if we talk about it more. Avoidance has not worked for us as the rate of suicide has climbed.
Please don’t think it will never happen to you. It can happen to anyone. It did happen to me. And we could avoid the deaths of many of our loved ones if we can get past our own fears of having a conversation about a scary topic.