If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
The school year brought a lot of things. One of the things it brought was a new classroom for my students, which they will hopefully get to see in person soon. The only snag in the new digs was I had to move from my old room to my new one. Anyone who has been teaching for over a decade knows that moving classrooms is like moving a home, because that’s what the classroom becomes. Things were made a little more complicated by the current COVID protocols. When I was told about the move last school year, people assured me they would be there to help with the load. When the day came lots of people came by to look at all the work to be done, but no one truly offered to help. The most common thing offered was suggestions on how I could do the work in a different way – alone. This is not to say I did not receive any help, I started moving, packing, cleaning and unpacking things at 8:00 in the morning and I finished by 3:30 in the afternoon. During that time three people did help, for about 30 minutes combined.
To be fair I did not ask for help. I knew everyone in the building had to get ready for a new method of teaching. There has been so much going on this year and everyone has their own troubles to deal with, there was no reason to bother them. At one point, after a frustrated back and forth with some coworkers, there were offers to help at a later date. The issue was I didn’t need the help at a later date, I needed help in the moment. But I couldn’t voice this, it would seem as if I was being difficult.
To many who read this, it probably seems like I am making a bigger deal out of a nothing situation. And it would be, if I were going to spend the rest of this piece ranting about this situation. But that is not why I bring this to your attention. I bring this to you as an example of how events often go for someone with suicidal thinking.
Before you click away, allow me to explain.
Someone who is going through suicidal thinking is facing an extremely difficult situation. It could be a mental illness or chronic medical issue. The trigger could be a sudden loss of job, partner, spouse, child or family member. Perhaps the person who is suicidal has been secretly dealing with trauma from recent or past events. Whatever it is, others may or may not be able to see it. If others can see the situations surrounding the person they may offer unhelpful advice: telling the person it’s not a big deal, to get over it, that things will get better with time.
Maybe the person has been offered help in the past but it didn’t come through, or they asked and were told “Now is not a good time.” In the end the person living with these dangerous suicidal thoughts is many times left to work through them alone.
Through my own mental illness and suicidal ideation journey there were so many times when I wanted or needed help. Sometimes I asked for things from people and these were almost always met with reasons why it wasn’t a good time. Throughout this time I learned not to ask, because everyone has their own issues and lives and mine was not important. This is not true, and I don’t say this to make people in my life feel bad. But someone who is thinking of ending their life doesn’t see it that way at that time.
When my thinking started to get really bad I began to display outward signs that things were getting dangerous. These signs included: talk of feeling hopeless, of not wanting to exist or go on, and being a burden to others. I don’t know if these warnings weren’t recognized for what they were, ignored because they were scary or shrugged off as attention seeking, but they weren’t heeded.
As you can see, I’m fine. I am lucky. But similar to the moving situation, things may not be all that they seem. Sure I could, and did move by myself, but it was difficult and frustrating to listen to others give suggestions or comment on the amount of work but not offer real help. People who are dealing with suicidal thoughts often see others going about their lives fine and wonder what is wrong with them, that their life is so messy, hard, or insurmountable. These life difficulties are of course, incalculably more difficult than simply moving boxes. And the most hurtful, and often tragically harmful, thing someone with suicidal thoughts will hear is to wait for help.
My hope in bringing this to your attention is to remember that when someone is going through something and asks for help, think before postponing. If it truly can’t be helped, check in with that person as soon as possible. When you know someone has been going through an extremely hard time, check in on them and offer to do what they need. Try your best to meet the needs they are asking for, either directly or indirectly. If you notice they haven’t been eating, offer to take them to dinner or make a meal to eat with them. Especially during this difficult time, when we all are going through so much, it is nice to know that others are looking out for you.
If you are unsure of the signs of someone in distress with suicidal thoughts please take a look at the following list:
- Talk of killing or hurting themselves
- Saying goodbye or giving away possessions
- Feeling hopelessness or lack of purpose
- Isolating from family and friends
- Change in hygiene or eating habits – often less
- Fatigue, sleeping more, unable to get out of bed
- Withdrawing from previously loved activities
- Aggression, anger, irritability
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Sudden relief or improvement from above listed signs
Together we can all help stop deaths from suicide. Afterall, caring for others is always a good thing to do, regardless of the time or year.
If you would like more information visit:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
The article, Suicide Prevention Month: Sometimes you can’t wait to help, was written by Elizabeth Schap and first appeared on just B more.
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