Talking About Suicide



Thanks for stopping by. I’m a journalist and a survivor of suicide attempts, and I’ve decided that it might be healthier to relax and talk openly instead of trying to hide it and feeling ashamed. 

Suicide happens quite often. There are more deaths by suicide than by homicide in the United States. But it’s an uncomfortable subject for most of us. The trouble is, silence risks leading to ignorance, bias and fear. When I worked in China and reported on human rights, I saw some of the dangers and stresses of self-censorship. It didn’t seem right to come home to the U.S. and accept a similar kind of taboo. 

This blog is for talking and sharing information about suicide issues. I’d like to hear your thoughts. I’d especially like to hear from other suicide attempt survivors who are willing to use their names. There are plenty of places online to talk anonymously about suicide. Let’s not do that here. 

It feels kind of unusual as a journalist to start off with opinions, but here’s some of my thinking so far. Keep in mind that I’m still learning:

We should not be afraid to talk openly about suicide and suicidal thinking. And those of us who talk about or emerge from these experiences should not be defined by these thoughts and experiences alone.

The relief people would feel in talking about suicide openly and without shame would outweigh the risk that talking about suicide would inspire people to do it.

We should make clear that much about suicide is unknown, including its causes.

Not talking openly about suicide can be dangerous if people act on inaccurate and romanticized ideas of it without understanding the risks they are taking with their bodies.

The message that no suicide method is foolproof and that all methods carry risks _ sometimes to first responders as well _ should be incorporated into suicide prevention efforts.

People who express the intention of killing themselves should not be detained and treated against their will.

Psychiatrists, therapists, counselors and others who are approached for help should not dismiss or disrepect suicidal thinking. Comments such as “Only a cry for help” or “If you really wanted to kill yourself, why are you still here?” are not helpful.

Suicide and suicidal thinking can have nothing to do with mental illness. 

Adults who have weighed their lives and made a reasoned decision to kill themselves should have the right to access to counseling, guidance and the means to doing it in a safe, peaceful and responsible way.

People who have been diagnosed with a mental illness should not be denied the right mentioned above.

Being more open about suicide will help ease the deep sense of isolation, helplessness, hopelessness and exhausted frustration that contribute to some people’s thinking that suicide is the only option they have.

You may not agree with some of these thoughts. That’s fine. I didn’t say talking openly about suicide would always be easy.