Friday, April 27, 2012

Suicide as an Escape

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with local pastors and chaplains at Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, IL about suicide prevention. I have worked with many clients who struggle with suicidal thoughts in community mental health centers and now in private practice. Many people have a hard time understanding why someone would even consider taking their own life. In my experience, suicidal thoughts are almost always motivated by the fantasy of escape.

1) Some people believe that suicide will deliver them from pain they are currently experiencing. This pain can be emotional, physical, or even spiritual. When suicidal thoughts come to mind, a person may be trying to escape feelings of being deeply depressed, alone, abandoned, betrayed, or ashamed. Sometimes, the intensity of this pain is heightened by the existence of Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder.

2) Some people believe that suicide will help them escape an impossible situation. Common situations I have observed that place people at risk are the following:

  • The person has experience a significant loss, such as the loss of a person to death (esp. suicide), a divorce or break-up, loss of a home, or loss of a job.
  • The person has recently been arrested or publicly exposed for something s/he experiences as humiliating, financially crippling, or career damaging. 
  • The person experiences distress over his/her sexual identity due to personal beliefs, bullying, fears about implications for current spouse and children, or perceived rejection or potential rejection by family members.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you are not alone. If you are struggling personally, it is really important that you reach out to someone, especially a mental health professional. If you are worried about someone, do not be afraid to talk to them about suicide and encourage them to seek help. It is a myth that asking someone about whether they are suicidal makes them suicidal. Most people who are suicidal feel extremely alone and benefit from someone noticing their pain and caring enough to ask.