“Suicide, I’ve already died, you’re just the funeral I’ve been waiting for.”
– Metallica, Cyanide
As one of the souls both unfortunate enough to be cursed with suicidal tendencies (the affliction, not the band) and fortunate enough to be blessed with wonderful friends who regrettably share my darker inclinations, I once again find myself talking about suicide. It’s okay, I’ll happily accept this responsibility if I can make a difference in someone’s life. But I don’t want to talk about the actual act, or the desire to engage in it. I want to talk about the real issue, the elephant in the room that no one ever wants to address: how people get into a position of wanting to take their own life in the first place.
Why? Because suicide isn’t a problem. It isn’t a philosophy, and it sure as hell isn’t a random affliction that pounces on unsuspecting prey. It’s a tactic, an approach, a (final) solution. Block the symptom, and the problem is still there. I’m here to talk about the problem.
Human beings have an incredibly strong survival instinct. How else could such a slow, weak, and fragile species of shaved primate manage to not only survive, but flourish, in every environment imaginable, to the point where humankind has become the unrivaled global apex predator? While this instinct is no longer quite as necessary in a world where vast swaths of people have all but conquered unnatural death, it still remains ingrained in our psyches. For someone to go so far as to fight directly against their strongest, most basic instinct, you know something serious is wrong. And usually, it’s something that’s been wrong for a very long time.
To be completely fair, sometimes the root cause of a suicide does come suddenly. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one, life savings, or health. Maybe it’s public humiliation, crushing guilt over a sin, or a lifetime of mistakes and irresponsibility finally coming to light. In those cases, preventing suicide can be as simple as stopping an attempt and letting time do the rest. Usually, though, the root causes were long in coming, and must be addressed if permanent survival is expected.
For me, suicidal desires come from a pretty simple equation: pain plus hopelessness over time. If someone is in enough pain with no hope of escape for long enough, they will think about quitting life altogether. In my life, it’s been a combination of pain sources (loneliness and feeling different, feelings of personal, social, and professional failure) mixed with a lack of hope for change (feeling no one would ever love or accept me, thinking I could never succeed professionally or thrive socially), both remaining unchanged over a long period of time. It really was the time that was the killer. I fought for survival fiercely enough, but after so many long years I was tired of fighting, completely ready to give up on living. I made a last, desperate attempt at changing my circumstances when I moved to New Hampshire, which afforded me enough hope for a better future to enable me to go on seeking a solution for my pain. Over time, I found fixes to my problems one by one, so that now I’m out of danger… hopefully forever.
It’s important to note that at no point during that long decade did I attempt suicide, mention my feelings to others, or otherwise let on how bad it was. That’s because I didn’t want attention. I wanted hope. All the while I was completely honest about my pain, about what I was unsatisfied with and how I wanted it to change. I told them what was wrong without alluding to the future symptom. Pretty much no one took it seriously. That’s why I never mentioned how close I was to being done, because I knew all I’d get was a bunch of attention, sympathy, interference, and absolutely zero help.
The truth is, the suicidal are zombies. They are the walking dead, still making lifelike movements, though already passed on. If you’re trying to save a body from being destroyed, you aren’t saving a life. You’d best be ready to pull out some resurrection spell, because that person is already dead, and we’ve come too late. Instead, make a difference in someone’s life now. That is, if you actually care. To be honest, most of us don’t actually give a damn about the suffering. They just want to stop the uncomfortable situation where a human takes their own life. Most would be perfectly happy if we stayed corpses our whole lives so long as we kept walking. If this isn’t what you want, then please, start caring now.
Every time we save someone from killing themselves and they survive, we’ve brought them back to life through magic. Don’t rely on miracles. Save them while they’re still alive.