Showing support, even at a loss for words
Editors’ Note: Although witnesses and officers at the scene reported that yesterday’s death was a suicide, the NYPD has not confirmed that officially.
News of the suicide of a young man yesterday at the 116th Street subway station has triggered a heartwarming show of compassion for the unknown man and his family. I am sure I speak for the whole Columbia community when I say that our thoughts and hearts are with the family and all those touched by this event.
There’s very little agenda to what I’m about to say, save to say again the obvious, which, sadly, still needs saying. I should note that what I say is drawn mainly from my own experiences having lost someone to suicide, having struggled with the thoughts myself, having been saved by my friends.
Suicide has been coming into our awareness more and more on campus these days. As far as it can be told, college depression and suicide seems to be on the rise and remains one of the top causes of death among students. Although it is at times like these that we become most aware of this issue and our community’s support services, we should remember that the job of suicide prevention does not rest with professionals alone.
Foremost, the task of preventing such tragedy rests with all of us. We must be ever mindful of the issue, watching for signs and staying, despite our petty tasks and diversions, always involved in and aware of the mental health of those around us. Although often those suffering from suicidal thoughts do not wear some easy badge, most do exhibit signs. Approach them about the signs – talk to them candidly. Just knowing that someone is invested in your life, knowing that someone sees beyond what you project, that can change the world.
Our current dialogue, though, is just not right for this task. I see a lot of comments on the Internet to the effect of, “suicide is never the answer, it’s a horrible decision, they had so much to live for.” While that may be true, that is almost never the right thing to say to someone suffering suicidal thoughts. The logic of depression may not be logical at all, and the sufferer may not even recognize that, but it is a powerful force. And to patronize and discount the logic of depression as absurd, well, it is not the best way of engaging with someone in a vulnerable hour. So here is something of a request – be mindful and watchful and engage with your friends, but never purport to know everything. Listen and sympathize, stay with them and encourage them to recognize the care in their lives and to seek help. Acknowledge the reality and logic of suicide in their minds. But don’t pretend to know how to snap them out of it with a few oversimplified words.
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