Saturday, May 19, 2018

Suicide Awareness - The Seventh of a 7-Part Series

"As a network of friends, family members, and professionals, we’re even better able to support those in need. So keep your loved ones close, and above all, maintain honest communication."

This is the seventh and final chapter of our seven part series. Please check out the previous posts if you haven't already (Part 1, Part Two, Part III, and Part 4, Part Five, Part VI). Now to the good stuff.

Hard Questions

Mental illness is confusing to everyone. Here are some of the questions that agonized Carol, Tom, and Laura during their initial symptoms and treatment:
  • Am I insane?
  • Has the drug I took damaged my brain or changed my personality?
  • Can I ever be happy and feel like myself again?
  • Is any of this real?
  • Will my boyfriend/girlfriend wait for me? Is it fair of me to want that?
  • Will friends, family, or employers think badly of me?
  • Will psychiatric drugs change my personality?
Their families had questions too:
  • Could this be the onset of a major mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar illness?
  • What if suicide happens despite all our efforts, either out of despair or because of poor judgment?
  • How can we protect him/her without overstepping?
  • Is this stressful and demanding situation damaging others in the family?
Many such questions lack obvious or immediate answers. Uncertainty brings its own stresses, so here are a few tips about that:
  • A loved one’s brush with suicide is likely to affect others as well. Pace yourself to endure months or even years of uncertainty. Take steps to stay physically healthy, and don’t hesitate to seek counseling if you find yourself overwhelmed by depression or anxiety. Be aware that others around you will be dealing with the same challenges.
  • Each step forward out of depression is a great relief for everyone. You’ll see encouraging signs such as a happier demeanor and a return to normal activity. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the crisis is over. Ask rather than assuming that a bright mood means they are feeling better, and be prepared for some ups and downs, particularly at first. It can help to be aware of how long it will take for medication to reach full efficacy.
  • If the person finds it helpful, point out improvements that you see. Note: Some people may hear this as a denial of their pain; others will be encouraged by it. If the person corrects your impression, don’t argue about it.
  • Hope can be an anodyne or a glorified delusion, or it may be a necessity. It’s essential to be honest about mental illness. But on the other hand, it’s important to convey your confidence that recovery is possible, if that is the case. If a full recovery isn’t likely, answer questions clearly and simply as they come up, express love and acceptance, and consult caregivers about what is realistic. Avoid platitudes and promises that you have no way of keeping, but try to provide steady, honest reassurance.
  • Express love and acceptance, regardless of the outcome. Laura’s devoutly Mormon extended family exemplified loving acceptance, assuring her that they didn’t care what she believed, only that she was happy and healthy. If family members are not supportive, consult a therapist.


When someone is mentally ill, trust can be complicated and difficult in a variety of ways:
  • Trusting a depressed or suicidal person’s promise not to harm themselves when their judgment has proven unreliable in the past
  • Trusting that the person will be safe when they are out of your presence
  • Trusting the person’s self-assessment and complaints of ongoing pain
  • Trusting the person’s assertions of improvement
The mentally ill person faces even more difficult challenges:
  • Trusting those who provide care
  • Trusting the diagnosis
  • Trusting the medication
  • Trusting one’s own mind and its power to rebound from illness or injury
  • Trusting friends and family to help determine when it’s time to go to the emergency room, be admitted to the hospital, or leave the hospital
  • Trusting others to provide reality checks and clarify cognitive distortions
As difficult and complicated as trust may be in such situation, it’s essential so that the depressed person can regain confidence in themselves and so that relationships can normalize.


A significant compromise in one’s ability to perceive, understand, and respond to the world around one can deeply shake a person’s confidence. As a suicidally depressed person recovers, they may feel embarrassed or humiliated by their actions and their needs. Family members can help by respecting normal boundaries and privacy, supporting without hovering or panicking, and communicating honestly and clearly about any problems that arise.

A final word about prevention:

Relationships and Prevention

Since 90% of suicides have physiological causes, close and open relationships with friends and family members can’t in and of themselves prevent suicide. But they can help protect against self-harm, reduce suffering, and facilitate intervention. As a network of friends, family members, and professionals, we’re even better able to support those in need. So keep your loved ones close, and above all, maintain honest communication.

If you are in need of help, you can reach us here.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-784-2433 (outside the US, these calls are free via Skype).

If you are LGBT+ and need to talk, please contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 or find them online here.

Know you are safe and among friends and we will do whatever we can to help.

Lastly, if you would like to be involved or volunteer, you can reach out to us here.

Tapir/Sparlock Signal is always looking for volunteers in a variety of areas including housing, employment, and other practical concerns as well as LGBT issues and suicide awareness. Contact us for more details.

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