This time of year can be difficult for many individuals. For those of you who did not read the comments in the “What if?” post I am re-posting the comments from Fanis and myself here.
Fanis provided a number of valuable resources for the prevention of suicide. If you know of anyone who may be struggling, or if you know of someone who may know of someone (you get the picture) please pass this conversation along.
Many thanks to Fanis for furthering this dialogue, and providing these important resources. As she pointed out, having safe places to have these conversations is important, to reduce stigmas, build education, and spread the word about prevention.
The following is a link to a number of resources that can be located across Canada. Suicide prevention resources CANADA.
COMMENTS FROM THE “WHAT IF?” POST
Shawna, I think you are opening up a really important conversation by sharing your story. I think it’s important that we also remember that there is help/hope. I know the book Darkness Visible by William Styron is one really great resource from someone with the lived experience of mental illness and surviving suicidal thoughts/attempts. Mental illness is such an invisible disease that claims lives, but it’s important for those struggling to know that there is hope and help. Once suicidal is not always suicidal. And Suicide Prevention does save many lives. Again Shawna thank you for sharing your story and opening up the conversation, I think we have so much to learn as communities. Thank you for your bravery.
Thank YOU Fanis! That is very good information to have. I thought about that yesterday. The cases that I, and the police have been exposed to are the fatal, but that is not to say that all cases like this end in the same way. Our perception may very well be skewed simply because of what we are more prone to be exposed to (again, referring to myself, and the police, not society as a whole.) I am very glad that you shared your point of view and think it is incredibly valid, and valuable to have shared here. Thank you for engaging and expanding my understanding on this topic.
Hey Shawna, I happen to have that book and can get it to you after the holidays (my sister has it right now). It’s the memoir I was talking to you about of the writer who was plagued by suicidal thoughts during a particularly dark episode during medication change of his bipolar. The book ‘Darkness Visible’ actually was introduced to me in the same spirituality group when I first learned of C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed. The phrase “darkness visible” is from the poem by John Milton “Paradise Lost” (a poem that C.S. Lewis really responded to and wrote a book about)that kind of reminds me of your metaphor from an earlier blog entry about the darkness of the womb in the nine months before birth and how you compared that to your grief journey with Neil’s death. The line from the poem says:
“No light, but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe. . .”
The writer of the memoir Darkness Visible really describes the agony that puts you out of your mind when fighting mood/mental disorders, and that shift in perspective that brings on a sense of hopelessness, which is a big risk factor when dealing with suicide, I have been told.
I think I understand (to a point without the lived experience) why the policeman would say what he said given his experience of deaths by suicide. I think I just reacted to something that seemed like a “fatalistic hopelessness” in the phrase “it’s not if, but when”. But maybe it reflects a reality in a fallen world that I haven’t really experienced and I am limited in understanding. I also understand that you are writing here as a survivor of who has lost a family member, and talking about the “slippery slope of what-ifs” and how they are not healthy which is very valid and I am thankful you are sharing that. My perspective is also laden with the experience of mental illness in people that I love, the lived threat of loosing loved ones to the disease, my own journey in understanding my own mental health and the isolation of a fistful of pills. I think as you know from being a caregiver that it takes a lot of courage to live with mental illness and that stigma is a fact in that journey. I think part of that is because mental illness, and mood disorders have behavioral manifestations that erode relationships and I myself have pushed loved ones away and/or had to protect myself from loved ones. I also know the anguish of knowing my behavior based on my mood alterations is breaking down my connections with people close to me. I am thankful that I haven’t suffered as much as others. But I do ask myself often, what would it look like to have safe spaces in community in the midst of all these dynamics that affect more people and families that we know? Safe spaces for survivors, caregivers and for those struggling? I haven’t got those answers but it’s a conversation I hope to continue.
I am so thankful that you have opened up this conversation space through your story sharing.
Thank you again for your insightful thoughts and for keeping the dialogue open, Fanis. Please allow me to clarify.
There are parts of this post that certainly do seem “fatalistic”. My hope was that they would be balanced with the rest of the writing in that same piece, but to make a certain point perhaps it seemed that the fatalism of suicidal tendencies took over. I apologize if it was too simplistic. This is certainly a complex topic.
Let me try to be more clear. I am not saying that everyone with mental illness, or even with suicidal thoughts, are going to commit suicide. If that were the case I too would be in the grave.
Some people have the will to live and fight to over come their suicidal tendencies with each rising battle. Others have lost the will to live and, unless they are monitored 24 hours a day, may very well fall into the category of “not if, but when.” Some individuals are premeditated in their attempts, and others, like my husband, are impulsive.
Still others may have a will to live but may stop, or forget, to take their medication. In Neil’s case he was actually on a medication change. He was normally on two types of medications, but during this time one of them had been switched. It may take four to six weeks for that medication to become effective, so during that time it was like he had stopped taking one of his meds. Statistically, the rate of suicide is higher during the first four to six weeks of being on anti-depressants, just as it is in the first four to six weeks of coming off them. There are many factors certainly to be considered in this conversation.
Another thing I want to make clear is that when it comes to mental illness it is not necessarily the individual themselves who chooses this for themselves. During an episode it is their disease that makes this choice.
I also want to clarify another point, not because you are bringing it to the forefront, but because I do not want it to be misunderstood. When it comes to medication in general, or the choice to use alternatives, I am in no way advocating for one of these options over another. I have picked my own path, and each individual must also choose theirs. This is a very personal choice and each individual should understand their reasons for what they choose. I believe in a holistic approach where nutrition, exercise, reduced stress, medication (if necessary), and meditation/focus on connecting with God and others, are used for better over-all health.
If you feel anything else is unclear, or if you would like to bring more resources to the discussion, please feel free to continue the dialogue.
Understood, and thanks for your clarity Shawna. And I should also clarify that when I used the term “fatalistic” which was probably not the best word I was not applying it to your post in general which offers good advice about not falling into “what-ifs” but it was more of a *reflexive* response to what the policeman said in your story. But please don’t apologize for being too simplistic, you were not and sorry for my slowness to understand
Also, thanks for welcoming more resources. For the benefit of other readers out there like myself for whom this is opening up more questions and conversation, here is another resource the national website of Suicide Prevention: http://www.suicideprevention.ca/
You are already doing some of their work by “ending the silence” by sharing your story! So thanks for allowing me to learn from your story.
Love and prayers!!