Aren’t we fortunate to be living in a day and age where we can actually start talking about topics that used to be so taboo?
5-10 years ago, I would not be surprised if people did not know much about mental health.
But this is no longer an excuse for us to remain ignorant or dismissive about mental health topics when we are fed with a plethora of information and resources in today’s digital age.
Especially not when there is an alarming trend of people choosing to take their own lives in recent times.
Just by looking at statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), annually close to 800,000 lives are lost through suicides, and many might not even be recorded. For every suicide, have you ever stopped to think about what happens next? For surely, things don’t just hit the brakes when a life ends.
One thing is for certain, a suicide loss will have profound implications on the people left behind.
Here, we may be looking at close to 6 (or more) individuals affected for every suicide. This group of individuals are termed ‘suicide survivors’. Just as the name may suggest, they are the ones that ‘survive’ or are left to live with the fact that they lost someone they know to suicide. (Disclaimer: Not to be confused with the term ‘suicide attempters’ though, where the latter are individuals who have attempted to take their own lives before).
Suicide survivors don’t have an easy task. They don’t just ‘move on’ with the loss and continue living their lives as if nothing happens. In actual fact, they have the difficult task of picking up the broken pieces left behind. This may be in the form of settling the unresolved events left behind or even grappling with their own emotions, all while trying not to fall apart.
The emotions that they feel, be it guilt, shame, regret or even blame, these are emotions that are hard pills to swallow.
I know at the back of our minds, we must wonder why they would even feel guilty, especially when the suicide was not their fault.
However, when someone so close decides to end their own life, questions such as “Why didn't I notice that something was wrong” or “Why didn’t I do something to prevent this from happening” will inevitably play itself like a broken recorder.
This feeling of guilt can be so intense that it spirals into complicated grief (i.e., prolonged period of grief) and even causing them to be at a higher likelihood of contemplating suicide or other self-harming behaviours after a suicide loss. This is why it is not uncommon to find most survivors being at a higher risk of experiencing greater levels of depression and anxiety.
So if you ask me, I think these are just several reasons as to why we should all try to support survivors.
We all need to rely on someone in our darkest days, and if we can’t be physically there, let’s at least strive to be empathetic in recognizing that they are individuals with legitimate struggles.
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