I was so fortunate to have participated in the first Road to Mental Readiness training for paramedics this past week, and have completed the course with a wealth of knowledge and excitement for what is to come with respect to mental health education in the paramedic field. One topic that was extensively covered was that of Suicide. For many people the word itself elicits fear and avoidance. It’s one of those, ‘let’s just skip that conversation’ topics that isn’t normally brought up at Sunday dinner. For all of the mental health topics that conjure up an instant sensation of walking on egg shells and discomfort, I’d have to say that suicide is most likely at the top of the list.
After the death of actor Robin Williams, the topic of suicide filled the media. I even remember hearing debates on how we as a society should address this cause of death. Suddenly twitter and Facebook pages were saturated with comments like, ‘He didn’t kill himself…He died by suicide.” And for the first time on such a public platform the stigma of suicide was exposed, and from what I could see, compassion and understanding emerged for human beings with a mental illness so dark and painful that taking their own life is the only way to stop their pain.
Even though the tragic death of Robin Williams is out of the media limelight, we need to continue to take the topic of suicide very seriously. When someone speaks of it, we need to believe them. People suffering need compassionate ears to hear their cries, but also champions who act when a person discusses the thought to take their life. It’s not an easy situation to be in, I understand. Many champions out there at one point ‘promised’ to keep a suicide conversation a secret, and the decision whether or not to break that promise may have unraveled a moral dilemma. But at the end of the day, a secret is worth nothing if the person who’s secret you are keeping is dead. Harsh, yes. But it’s even harsher if it happens.
I am in no way saying that breaking a secret is simple. And I completely know that a 400 word blog doesn’t even scratch the surface of this topic. But in my opinion, risking losing the trust of someone by being the hand that reaches for help for them may be the first door to a person’s road to recovery. I pushed loved ones away at first who broke my ‘trust’ and got help for me, but I was sick, and NEEDED them to do so. My delusional thinking was not doing me any favours, and I NEEDED the ‘tough-love’ guidance of healthy minds. Furthermore, these secret-sharing sessions can be a person’s last cry for help.
If you know of someone who is thinking about taking their own life, you NEED to speak up and get help for them. Call your local emergency number (i.e.: 911) and let professionals remove the burden of responsibility from you. Break that secret!