From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Many survivors struggle to understand the reasons for the suicide, asking themselves over and over again: “Why?” Many replay their loved ones’ last days, searching for clues, particularly if they didn’t see any signs that suicide was imminent.
Because suicide is often poorly understood, some survivors feel unfairly victimized by stigma. They may feel the suicide is somehow shameful, or that they or their family are somehow to blame for this tragedy.
However, 90 percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death (most often depression or bipolar disorder). Just as people can die of heart disease or cancer, people can die as a consequence of mental illness. Try to bear in mind that suicide is almost always complicated, resulting from a combination of painful suffering, desperate hopelessness and underlying psychiatric illness. As psychologists Bob Baugher and Jack Jordan explain,
“ [O]nce a person has decided to end his or her life, there are limits to how much anyone can do to stop the act.… In fact, people sometimes find a way to kill themselves even when hospitalized in locked psychiatric units under careful supervision. In light of this fact, try to be realistic about how preventable the suicide was and how much you could have done to intervene. On some level, your loved one made a choice to end his or her suffering through suicide. We can wish with all our heart that our loved one would have chosen differently, but that choice was still his or hers to make. …
… Medical research is also demonstrating that major psychiatric disorders involve changes in the functioning of the brain that can severely alter the thinking, mood, and behavior of someone suffering from the disorder. This means that while stress, social problems and other environmental factors can contribute to the development of a psychiatric disorder, the illness produces biological changes in the individual that create the emotional and physical pain (depression, inabilities to take pleasure in things, hopelessness, etc.) which contribute to almost all suicides.”
- Bob Baugher and Jack Jordan, After Suicide Loss: Coping with Your Grief.
• Youth Suicide: What You Can Say and Do to Help the Survivors
• What 'Recovery' Will and Will Not Mean
• But I Feel So Guilty
Also from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
• What Do I Do Now?
• When You Fear Someone May Take Their Life
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is a leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research and education, and to reaching out to people with mood disorders and those impacted by suicide.
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