When you hear the painful words, everything else you’ve heard, seen or done in the recent past feels pointless and trivial in comparison: A loved one committed suicide.
It doesn’t even have to be a loved one.
It can be a friend of a friend, someone you barely knew.
Or even someone you didn’t know at all.
All deaths are sad. Many are tragic.
But there is something profoundly heartbreaking when the death is a suicide.
You don’t know what to say to the survivors. You don’t know what to do.
Maybe, though, there is something you can say before it happens.
Maybe, when a friend, or an acquaintance seems different, down, not acting themselves, you say something kind. Or you say nothing, but offer a smile. Or a hand on the shoulder. Or a hug. Maybe you offer an ice cream cone. Or a ride to the grocery store.
The thing is, it’s difficult to know when someone is contemplating suicide.
Each of us has our own burdens and struggles. We can’t fully know others’ burdens and struggles, but it’s safe to assume they have them.
September is Suicide Prevention Month.
You may not think suicide is something you need to be aware of, but it is a part of society that is with us.
Even if you haven’t experienced suicide with someone you know, I bet you five bucks you can think of a time in the past three months you’ve heard about a suicide in our community.
I’m still troubled by the news of a suicide by an area 12-year-old I learned about in June.
You, no doubt, also have a suicide story that haunts you.
According to World Population Review, in New Mexico, the rate of suicides per 100,000 people is 25, fourth highest in the country and much higher than the national rate of 14.1. For veterans, it’s worse.
According to the U.S. Deparmtent of Veterans Affairs, the New Mexico rate of veteran suicides is 40, compared with the national rate of veteran suicides of 31.7.
There are counseling professionals available at the tip of our fingers.
If we have loved ones in trouble, they may or may not be comfortable making those calls. But we can make the calls and the professionals can give us advice on next steps.
In the meantime, we can be there. We can listen.