Suicide is a hard subject. Recently, I heard a statistic about how much suicide has recently increased. According to NBC news, across America as a whole, it increased 30% (https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/suicide-rates-are-30-percent-1999-cdc-says-n880926). However, depending on your age, race, gender, and other demographic information, it could be significantly higher. While I was listening to the report, some of the statistics were high enough that it made me stop what I was doing and pay attention.
These statistics leave me feeling overwhelmed. I’m not a medical professional or trained to help others, but I can share my experience. Maybe if I talk about it, it’ll make it easier for others to share theirs. Because with numbers that high, suicide has likely touched many lives, directly or indirectly.
I was a child when my aunt committed suicide. Despite the fact that I was young, it was still hard. Suicide isn’t like other deaths because the person killed themselves. While usually related to a mental illness, it is still different than someone dying from other diseases like cancer. Suicide deaths produce numerous questions and emotions. The range of emotions runs from grief to anger and guilt and everything in between. I knew my aunt had dealt with depression, but I was still shocked. It was a hard loss, one of the hardest I’ve experienced.
After a suicide, those left living have questions. Besides the obvious one of why it happened, there are others. There’s a guilt that goes along with these questions too. We’re asking ourselves, Could I have done something to help prevent their death? If I had done something differently, would they still be alive? Those are hard questions that can seem unanswerable.
I asked those questions. Maybe not right away, but definitely as I got older. Even today, years later, I periodically find myself asking some of them. I can move on more quickly now than before, yet occasionally I still wonder about her death.
Sometimes the questions turn outward to blame. While this wasn’t part of my experience with my aunt’s suicide, I have seen other people deal with being blamed after their loved one’s suicide. People seem to want to blame someone, usually those closest to the deceased person, for their death. This can cause people to lose other friends or family in addition to the person they lost to suicide, which makes the loss even harder. It’s important to remember that it isn’t ever a family’s desire or decision to have someone they care about die.
Furthermore, there is a sense that suicide shouldn’t be talked about. Why that is, I don’t know. There are some places, including churches, that have groups to support people who have lost loved ones to suicide. However, overall, it still seems to be a subject many don’t want to talk about. It feels like a taboo topic. At least, from my experience with my aunt’s death, it did.
As a child, I felt as though I couldn’t talk to most people about my aunt’s suicide. This was true in the church as well, so I have never told very many people. There was a sense of shame that was present as well. Maybe that was because I felt like it was something I shouldn’t talk about. If people aren’t allowed to talk about suicide, what are they supposed to do with all their emotions and questions?
My response to the rise in suicide statistics is to simply share my story with the hope that it will make others feel freer to talk about suicide. The stigma surrounding suicide needs to end. I can’t change the statistics, but I can share my story. I don’t have the answers to why suicide is rising. However, I know there is hope for those considering it and those who are coping with the loss of a loved one to suicide. Perhaps if we start talking about it, others will see that hope too.
(If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255)
Rachel Roen enjoys learning, traveling, and spending time with friends. She completed a Master’s degree and is looking forward to the next adventure God has in store for her.