From what those with lived experience have told me and what studies show, it goes something like this.
“I’m afraid my mom and dad will no longer be proud of me.” -15 year old male (race?)
“I’m afraid the army will find out and I’ll never get promotions. If they find out I’m seeing a counselor, it will ruin my military career. That’s why I drive 45 minutes to see a private counselor. I don’t want them to know.” -21 year old white male army recruit
“I’m afraid my wife will think I am weak.” -59 year old married white male
“I’m gay and now that I’ve come out, I feel the pressure in the LGBTQ community to look and act a certain way and I just don’t fit that mold.” –young adult LGBTQ white male
“It’s hard for a man in the African American community to admit he is hurting so much he’d want to kill himself. It makes me look weak and that’s how I’d be seen by my bros. I’d rather die.” –26 year old African American Male
“I’m afraid if I tell my foreman, I’d lose my job. Besides that, I’d get shunned. And in the environment we work in, it’s just not accepted.” –32 year old construction worker
“I’m well thought of professionally with a shelf full of awards and accolades. I lead thousands. If I admitted I struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, my reputation would be ruined. I’d be ruined.” —46 year old white female executive
“I’m afraid if I tell my teacher, they’ll say I’m just trying to get attention because that’s what they said about my cutting. It will be more of the same.” –13 year old white female
“No one cares. No one will care when I’m gone.” — age, race, gender unknown
“I did tell my dad and he told me to ‘pray on it.’ It’s just better for me to end it.” –15 year old white female in remote rural community
People struggling fear they’ll lose their job, a relationship, your respect. They fear being rejected, ridiculed, looked down upon and seen as weak. These are valid concerns from those struggling with these thoughts. And if you have lived experience, add why you were afraid to tell. By the way, we are grateful you are still here to educate us.
Asking for help is not a weakness
We all need it at some point in our lives.
My own son, Charles, ended his life because he thought we’d given up on him and didn’t care any more.
To those who struggle with these thoughts, find that person you can trust to understand and listen without judgement. They are there. And they want to hear what you have to say. This can be treated.
To those of you who are in positions of power (managers or parents), or not currently struggling, take friends and loved ones seriously. Any and all threats of suicide need to be taken seriously. Be willing to listen with empathy and without judgement. Start with the phrase, “I’m honored you trust me enough to tell me about the darkness you are feeling.”
The stigmatizing culture around this topic is killing people. That has to change for people to be comfortable telling you they want to die. And we want them to tell.
Because otherwise we lose beautiful people.