Updated: Sep 23, 2020
If you are here, reading this blog, it may be for three reasons. First, just idle curiosity. Second, you know someone who is thinking of suicide or you have lost someone to suicide. Or third, you are having suicidal thoughts yourself.
In all three cases, this blog may help you understand suicide better.
The truth is that despite what popular culture may tell you, those who attempt suicide do not want to die. Mostly, they just want the pain to end.
How do I know that?
It is because I lost my mother to suicide and I have engaged in suicidal behavior when I felt there was no hope and felt like nothing but a burden.
I realized that -“This is what mom must have felt.”
I hated her for leaving me behind. “Why did she do it?” I asked myself as I looked down from the 9th-floor window of my marital bedroom and thought jumping was the only way out of this misery. I did not want to live.
Then my husband walked in. He saw me standing at the window with tears in my eyes. I was hoping he would ask me if I was okay. But, he looked at me with the ‘oh God, not again look’ as he opened his drawer of t-shirts, took one out, and walked away, closing the door behind him. It was not that he did not care, it was just he did not know how to help me.
That night I cried myself to bed. Again.
And then I hit rock bottom. I decided to jump off the Sealink bridge. But it was then that I knew I wanted to change the way my story was going. The truth, I didn’t want to die. I wanted the inner pain to end. I needed to talk to someone to help me figure this inner pain. I needed to seek help. I went for therapy. Something I had always refrained from because of the stigma that was attached to it. Therapy helped me. It helped me stay alive.
I decided to research Suicide. The questions I wanted to answer were: Why do people die by suicide? What might be the reasons? Is Suicide Preventable? What can I do about it? Where does the inner pain begin?
What I’ve learned over the past two years of research has helped me heal. I was able to articulate the pain I felt – the emotional pain – that did not cease. It helped me understand the days I locked myself away from the world, crying piteously, knowing that nobody would understand. I was afraid to say I was sad, I was hurting, because I had said it so many times that by now I felt people were tired of listening to me.
Today, I don’t blame them. I did not know what was happening to me. Why was I sad and unhappy at all times? If I didn’t know what was wrong with me. how would they know? How would my husband have known?
They saw a young, educated girl, with a caring husband and loving in-laws. “What do you have to be sad about? Ungrateful. You have everything.” they said.
And yes, they were right, on paper, I had everything. But, they were unable to see my pain that tore me up inside. The struggle it took to wake up and face the world each day. The smile that took all the energy out of me. The mask I put on each morning, dragging my body to work and then home, just waiting for the day to end. Hoping I would not wake up the next day, or the flight would crash upon landing. Something, anything, to make the pain end.
What is this pain?
Suicidologist Edwin Scheindman in his book “The Suicidal Mind” terms it as “psychache”. It is a “psychological pain which comes from thwarted psychological needs” (pg.4). It is suffering (excessive feelings of guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and angst) in the mind of the individual who is entertaining thoughts of ending their life. They feel like it is the only way out.
I have experienced this pain and know how it can drive one to want to die. My journey made me want to help those like me who not only have lost someone to the pain but also feel it themselves.
What can prevent suicide?
Giving each person an open and safe space to talk about their feelings, their pain, and any thoughts of suicide. Letting them know they are not alone, and help is just around the corner. That their life matters, and you care enough to listen.
What can you do?
Learn to have a conversation that can save a life. Learn the warning signs.
My name is Nyana Sabharwal, I am a trained suicide interventionist. I am the co-founder of We Hear You (a bereavement support group for families who have lost a loved one to suicide) and the Founder of Itai Doshin, a social enterprise whose project Safe Space is focused on making our families and workplaces Suicide Safe. We provide suicide first aid training that builds the skill to have life-saving conversations.