By: Barbara Schwartz
As I began to write this month’s blog post, I looked at a list of special “days” for September. Ah-ha! It’s National Yoga Awareness Month. I’m a yoga instructor and believe that yoga can benefit everyone and that a good yoga instructor can modify any yoga practice to match anyone’s ability. Yoga can even be practiced by those who are bedridden!
But as I scrolled past National Yoga Awareness Month, I also noted that September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. This is more important than yoga (and yes, I just said that!) My family lost a relative to suicide. Several young people in my community have committed suicide. And suicide is not just relegated to the young or to those with a low- or middle-class socioeconomic standard. The brilliant comedian and actor Robin Williams committed suicide. Designer Kate Spade committed suicide. These are people who seemed to have everything and access to the best care, yet they could not bear the darkness. Their action, which I believe is a momentary, last resort action, left all who loved them in an even darker place. We have guilt: Why didn’t we know or do something? We feel responsible for not preventing the suicide and we feel gut wrenching loss as we go about our lives with the hole that person has left in our hearts.
What can we do?
Talk! Ask questions! Be there! There have been times during which my now adult son has been incredibly stressed with schoolwork. I always sat and listened, offered some advice, and eventually, if he was still upset, I would ask him flat out: Are you ok? Are you thinking about hurting yourself? He always got mad when I asked because he’s not depressed and he knows that I’m a little twitchy about suicide because of our family’s loss. My point here is that I didn’t care if he got angry when I asked. It was important for him to know that he could come to me with anything.
If you or a loved one is contemplating suicide, call your physician and tell them that you are feeling like you want to hurt yourself and insist on being seen. If you can’t see your primary care physician, go to the emergency room! You can even call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Check out their website at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ for a lot of information about suicide prevention and vulnerable populations.
While I am not a physician, many years ago I read that suicide ideations do not always last long. In other words, if you can stop the person from committing suicide for a day or two and get them treatment, depression may linger and require treatment, but the suicidal thoughts may go away. I read that a very long time ago and do not recall the source. Harvard’s School of Public Health, however, has an article that explains that many suicide attempts take place within hours or days after a particularly difficult event or soon after the thought occurs (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/means-matter/duration/).
The bottom line here is that suicide can be prevented. If you or someone you love are having thoughts of suicide, know that these thoughts are temporary. Ask hard questions like ‘Are you thinking of hurting yourself?’ Call your doctor. Call a friend or family member to come sit with you. Call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Go to the emergency room. But know that help is available.