Tonight, a man called up a talk show in Ireland. He was standing on a bridge, thinking about jumping off. As things like this are wont to do, it sparked a massive debate on suicide. Here's my take on the situation:
1. If he called the radio station looking for help, he wasn't entirely sure about suicide. He sent out invitations to receive help in his life, and did so through a public medium.
Why? I can't answer that. I can speculate, though, that he wanted to be taken seriously. He wanted someone to listen and not hang up. He wanted to be able to talk about what was going on in his life, but it's possible he couldn't find a way to bring it up around loved ones.
By calling the radio station, he found a way to tell people and to receive the help he needs.
There is nothing wrong with that.
2. He may have been looking for attention, but that doesn't mean our understanding of attention is the same as his. If he felt alone, he needed to reach out to someone who might listen.
Why a talk show? Again, I can't give his answer to that question. However, he may have felt he couldn't do one of the following three things:
(a) Call a helpline. He won't know the person at the other end of the line. It might make him uncomfortable, and he doesn't know what they will say to him.
(b) Tell a loved one. He doesn't know how they will react, if they will take him seriously, or if they will be able to help. Ireland isn't entirely suicide safe. People aren't always comfortable talking about it. He might also struggle to tell his family or friends about anything bothering him.
(c) Make an attempt at suicide. Sometimes, people who are having thoughts of suicide make an attempt in the hopes that someone will find them in time to save them. It doesn't always go according to plan (and not everyone who makes an attempt at suicide wants to be saved.)
Why those three? Because they're three things many people who have thoughts of suicide do when they're looking for help.
Calling a talk show meant calling someone who he was familiar with, but didn't know. It wasn't anonymous, it wasn't a family member, and it wasn't a suicide attempt. However, the risk was still there.
Suicidal thoughts can leave someone in a fragile state of mind, and should not be ignored if someone finds a way to express them.
He was listened to.
3. We can't decide it was:
(a) A prank, or
Equally, we can't judge him for actually reaching out for help. We don't know what he would have done if he hadn't spoken about it on radio.
- More people die by suicide in the US every year than are murdered.
- There were nearly 500 reported suicides in Ireland in 2010.
- Many suicides are not reported as suicides.
Tonight can teach us many things. Firstly, there are always people who have some compassion for those who experience thoughts of suicide. Secondly, there are support services in place when you need them. Thirdly, suicide is still attached to many stigmas; it is still taboo; Ireland still needs to learn to talk about it openly.
I'm not a doctor or a psychiatrist or a counsellor, but that doesn't mean I don't care.
1Life: www.1life.ie or call 1800 247 100.