Suicide contagion

I lost a friend to suicide this past Sunday. He was a respected Church member in a position of responsibility. He could’ve called someone — me — anyone! I’m reasonably sure he had an untreated mental disorder, just from past talks we had, but he seemed well-adjusted and “rational” on the surface. He looked like he had it together and was doing well. Until he shot himself. I received the compliment from a Church leader and friend that I deeply respect that I’m “the most rational person he knows”. Though a fantastic thing to have said of me, how rational are any of us when suicide comes up? Suicide contagion. It’s a thing. People see a leader or someone they respect or someone who they think has it together kill themselves and, if someone is already predisposed toward suicide in their thinking, they think that they now have license to follow suit because that figure of respect did it. The first suicide normalizes the act and leads other, more vulnerable people down that suicide path. If nothing else, it makes people think about the act of taking one’s own life. That could be deadly to the individual who feels doomed anyway. One suicide may just be the tipping point for someone else’s tolerance for life and lead to another suicide.

If you’re feeling suicidal, tell someone! Call a friend, seek out a religious leader, or go to the emergency room. Don’t leave your friends and other vulnerable people scratching their heads as to why you never said a word or never tried to get help, because there are plenty of people ready and willing to help you. You have to be brave enough to tell them you need help, though. People can’t read your mind. So say something! Give them a chance to help you. Give yourself a chance, even if you think all is lost. There’s always something salvageable. YOU.

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