Caveat. This article addresses an aspect of suicide and mental health. At no point am I diminishing mental health issues that need qualified professional help. What I am addressing here is a particular form of human anguish that is a direct result of a broken system.
There is another form of existential crisis that is the dark night of deep inner transformation. The human equivalent shift from the chrysalis to the butterfly. This type of transformation needs a guide, and for the person transforming, the awareness of what is occurring that will enable them to endure the absolute breakdown of the known. I have written about this in other articles. I have had the privilege of being a guide for many people as they navigate their own dark night.
There are many things wrong with our world. There always will be. To solve humanities problems is part of what it means to be human.
One of the many issues we have right now is the issue of suicide.
This is a conversation I know well, from both sides. From being the one holding the hand of many people as we discuss death, life, existential pain, choice and everything in between.
And from sitting in a question as to why, and for what, and how much longer, harder…difficult can this be and do I really want to continue?
I am not alone.
Our current society does everything possible to stop a conversation about death. Dying. Age. Older.
Distanced from a life on the farm, where death is a daily experience, we find the subject too uncomfortable, too raw and real. Easier to objectify death through video games and media.
If someone is considering suicide, few people can sit with them and talk about death as a choice absent judgement of any kind. Absent fear. Or absent our instinct to rescue, save and fix. To simply be present to witness emotional and spiritual pain that is not yet seen as equivalent to intractable physical pain and therefore not treated with the same level of compassion.
I have known and loved people who have lived in intractable emotional and spiritual pain for decades. Who says we have the right to deny them peace, when we might wish peace upon the person suffering intractable pain from cancer?
While the regular postings on Social Media about my door being always open, the kettle is ready for a soothing cuppa, are lovely and kind, they are also, in many cases, trying to sooth a pain that does not need soothing.
The Farmer might like a cup of tea and a chat, but what they really need is the banks to stop harassing them daily with threats of foreclosure while the drought just gets worse.
The young man actually needs skills in feeling confident enough to ask a girl on a date, and to be able to handle any rejection that might happen.
The young person might need skills and tools to stand up to the bully, or to see how remarkable they are as they are.
The open door and the cup of tea is a start, but in so many cases what people need is very specific, very focused help. The person suffering may or may not know exactly what that help is, but unless it is forthcoming, the cup of tea and chat is a temporary bandaid to a problem that needs a village, a community, a nation and even a global collective will to solve.
Some of the issues that needs to be addressed to ease the epidemic in suicide are large scale systemic issues. The farmer needs a wholly different method of finance for his farm. We need to address climate extremes as part of the condition of farming, to build that into the mechanism for finance. (And to do something about trying to halt its accelerated continuance.)
Young people need to find a grounded sense of identity in a world where identity has been smashed and nastiness is par for the course.
We need to address bullying. Not simply by focusing on the bully, but by not growing victims. And that means a different form of education and child rearing.
In the short term, as well as the open door and the cup of tea, asking how specifically you might be able to help, what is needed, what will make the issue that has cause the pain to become so loud, go away, is a really critical step.
Yet few people ask. I wonder why? Perhaps they fear the answer? Perhaps they are safer in their distance from getting too involved? Perhaps they know the answer yet feel helpless themselves in what they can do to address the answer? Perhaps they know the answer and yet do not want to give up their safe lives in order to really address the problem?
Asking for what is specifically needed doesn’t always work, because there are many different types of mental health issues, including truly existential issues and previous trauma that will be present no matter what. And for that qualified professional help is essential.
But to not ask, to not become practical in response to human suffering that can be helped, this is for us as people, as a community, to be negligent in the face of a solvable problem.
R U OK? How can I help? Really, how can I help? What do you need to ease this pain? Specifically?
Now you are engaged, and cannot pretend to be ignorant of the problem. It will take us all to be the change.