A friend once asked me why people killed themselves. She said that she knew all of her friends and would know if they were sad, upset, or thinking of suicide. It took me a little while to answer her… Our problem as people is that we only see what we want to in other people. We are under the impression that everyone walks, talks, thinks and acts the same as we do, but that is far from the truth and somewhere deep inside, we don’t want to accept that. We’re only focused on how we would react to a ‘sad’ thought, to a ‘bad’ day, to losing a loved one, to feeling alone and depressed and lost, to losing a job, to any other stress we may go through, that we forget that other people are not us. We even get upset, righteous, indignant, and sometimes downright hurtful when someone tells us that they think about suicide constantly. What is it that we say to them, again? “You have such a nice house, though.” “Your parents have always been so good to you, though.” “What do you mean you feel alone? You have like a ton of friends.” “Your job isn’t great, but at least you have one, right?” “Have you ever tried not thinking about it?” “How can you be depressed? I just saw you smile.” “But you have kids. Don’t they fix your sadness?” We’re so busy trying to find blame, trying to make it easier for ourselves that we don’t hear the screams and cries for help… We know the public mask of the people around us and that makes us happy. We know how to say ‘I’m here for you’ but not how to truly be there. We’re content with all of it because it’s easier to stay in your own world where you know all of their favorite things and hang out together, than it is to hear them say they’re in pain and admit that you didn’t see it because it would mean you had to go deeper into someone else’s world. I told her that that’s the funny thing about depression and suicide; we’re always focused on who someone used to be and not on who they are now, and by the time we realize they were screaming for us to help them, we’re crying by their gravestone.
Acknowledging that people can change, that even the people you’ve known your entire life can change, is the first step to letting them know that they can count on you. When someone opens up and says they’ve been feeling this way for years, acknowledge their words and feelings, do not recount the times you assumed they were fine. They’ve opened their world to you, please don’t take that for granted and help them.