cw: discussion of suicide, suicidality

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

I have complicated feelings about how we discuss suicide.

We often talk about suicidality in terms of universals – suicide is always the wrong choice, staying is always the right choice.

We talk about suicide as passing the pain on to someone else. As a failure.

There are exceptions to this, of course, and I’m grateful for them.

This is so hard to talk about, to write about, to engage in meaningful conversation about. It is so hard to say, “I am passively suicidal a lot of the time,” because there is not often space for those conversations. This is something I hear from community members regularly. This is something I have experienced myself.

It’s hard to say, “I am actively suicidal but I don’t want to follow through on it, help me stay here,” because even though that is exactly what lots of folks want to say, we have not done a good job, as a culture, of setting up robust supports for people in that situation *or* for their supporters. We don’t talk about how to put a safety plan in place. We don’t have the supports in place to make those plans effective, a lot of the time! We don’t have support for the supporters, we don’t have support for people who have been down that hole and clawed their way back up. This is a common topic of discussion, but it’s worth saying again – we provide support only to those people who are exactly the right amount of suffering or vulnerable. Not before, not after, and often, not during. That’s bullshit.

And it is nearly impossible to say, “I am actively suicidal and I am ready to go, but I want to say goodbye and leave on my own terms,” because we have absolutely no available scripts for this. And because we do not hold any space for that to be a valid choice.

If you are suicidal and you want to stay, I want you to stay. And there are so many other folks who also want you to stay. There are distress lines, including text-based distress lines, and there is sliding scale counselling available, and even though our system is entirely lacking, you’re not completely alone. If you want to figure out how to make a safety plan, my own personal experience is that having someone to talk it through with is helpful. What are the signs that tell you it’s time to go to the hospital? When will you know it’s time to put the plan into action? Who is on your safety team, and what strategies are in place to make sure the whole team is supported? These are tough questions to answer in isolation.

If you are suicidal and it’s no big deal because it’s been that way for a long time, I see you and I see what you’re going through. You are getting through these days despite that little whisper in your ear, and that is amazing. If you want to talk about what that’s like, and strengthen your connection to the skills that are keeping you going despite it, I’m here.

I trust your judgement.

You know what you need, you know what you can handle. You know what you’ve been through, and what you want for yourself.

I trust you.

If you have friends or family who are suicidal, that can be so hard. If you’ve been asked to be part of someone’s safety plan, it can be difficult to know what that means, or how to act. If you want help figuring that out, let me know.

If you’ve lost someone to suicide, or if you’ve survived an attempt, that pain is so real. I’m sorry.

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day, and I wish we had more language to talk about this. I wish we had more space for people to talk about this. I wish we had better ways to engage with the topic, ways that are less blaming, less judging, less pathologizing, less silencing.

Until we have that, all we have is each other.

We can be gentle with each other.

We can be compassionate with each other.

We can hold space for each other.

We can trust each other.

(If you want to read more of my thoughts on this topic, this earlier post is available.)

A note on suicidality