Kevin Briggs is a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau. Bring him to your campus or organization to speak about mental health.
November 19th is “International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.” This day is an opportunity celebrated around the world for people affected by suicide loss to gather at local events to find and provide comfort and gain understanding as they share their stories of their loved ones. I once read that each suicide has what is referred to as a “direct affect” on six people. This means that at least six people were affected enough to cause them to alter their daily life patterns. I believe this number is low. Of course, many, many more people are saddened by the loss.
In his book “Deaths of Man,” E. Schneidman wrote,
“The largest public health problem is neither the prevention of suicide nor the management of suicide attempts but the alleviation of the effects of stress in the survivors whose lives are forever altered.”
Some of you may know this already…my paternal Grandfather lost his life to suicide. I was not born when this occurred, but his actions prevented me from ever getting to know him, and him, me. Who knows, we may have been best friends.
Those of us who are suicide loss survivors are no doubt forced into an association that we wish we were never placed in, and really, didn’t even know existed in the first place. It’s well known that most people who take their life suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. Even though suicide has been on the rise since 1999, I truly believe that due to our better understanding of mental illness and the continual destigmatization surrounding it, suicide rates will go down. There are many organizations supporting those who are contemplating suicide, as well as suicide loss survivors. There are crisis chat lines, crisis texting help and even “apps” for assistance. Organizations like Active Minds, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and others openly discuss suicide prevention and have information readily available for suicide loss survivors.
Being that I never met my Grandfather, I will say I don’t suffer the anguish as a parent does who has lost a child, or someone who has lost a good friend or another family member that they have a deep bond with. During my career with the California Highway Patrol I encountered hundreds of people contemplating suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB). Most “negotiations” were successful. But there are also those encounters with people with whom I was not able to help and they did in fact, perish. These encounters have significantly affected me, pushing my desire to help others to the forefront.
In my discussions with family members from those lost on the GGB and many, many others in my travels speaking about suicide prevention and crisis intervention, I see time and time again the pain left from loss. Some people say this is a ripple effect from the suicide. I can tell you the devastation is bigger than a ripple. It is a tsunami, a hurricane that strikes hard and leaves in its wake sadness, grief, unanswered questions and even guilt. Those left behind wonder what they could have done to prevent the tragedy. Please believe me when I tell you the action of the family member or friend was not your fault. The act of suicide is a personal one, not selfish, and in almost every case, not intended to cause pain or anguish to anyone. The common purpose of why a person dies by suicide generally, is to seek a solution to the intolerable psychological pain they are in. Their crisis management skills have been exhausted and they feel hopeless about their situation.
What can those of us do that are left behind, the suicide loss survivors? Do our best to live a life of happiness, continual growth and service to your community. This is what those who have lost their life would wish for you, I’m sure.
I urge everyone to take some time on November 19 to recognize not only suicide loss survivors, but all who have lost their life to suicide. There are a number of events taking place worldwide. I’ve listed a few websites below for additional information.
God bless and keep each other safe,
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org
National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org
Survivors of Suicide Loss: https://www.soslsd.org