Perhaps the most prevalent condition I encounter among those I assist is depression, feelings of hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide. Counseling is available, but unfortunately it doesn’t always reach those suffering, and we lose them. A possible reason for this is our approach to counseling. We view those considering suicide as victims, when they aren’t. Those loved ones left to suffer the loss are the victims, and are often without a voice in the counseling, as we focus primarily on those having thoughts of suicide.
I must admit, my field of study is in society and the issues we face have little emphasis on psychology. Relaying the successes I’ve experienced in helping others are not meant to imply I have professional insight.
After meeting with a woman and consulting with her on various possible income solutions she was able to improve upon her options as a writer. Over a period of months I also became a friend and confidant to her teen son. Jacob confided that he was having thoughts of suicide. He expressed to me that he felt he could not find his way in the world, and felt as if he was a burden upon his mom. Jacob’s mother sat quietly beside him as he spoke, struggling to contain her emotion.
After listening intently as Jacob explained his reasoning that suicide seemed to be his only viable option, I asked if he had expressed everything he was feeling. He agreed that he had exhausted his every thought on the matter. I then addressed his mother.
No more than 15 minutes into her discussion of the impact the death of her son would have on her life, Jacob was begging for her to stop. I pressed her to continue, reminding Jacob that he had been given his time to share. Jacob realized in that moment he was no victim. To his mother, his self inflicted death would be no different that a murderer taking her son away from her and leaving her alone in this world.
Jacob and his mother require professional counseling to continue to address the issues they both face. I was able to connect them to the appropriate community services, but the fundamental clarification of the real victim of suicide was Jacob’s strongest agent for change.
It’s not so important that counselors change the way they address suicide. It is more important that those who are considering taking their own lives look beyond themselves. How can we be empathetic to our own emotional pain without also taking into consideration the trauma our actions will have on everyone in our lives?
We must also take into account the very real reasons people come to view suicide as their only option. Physical pain as a result of illness or injury, emotional trauma, and long term sustained abuse are issues requiring professional counseling, and should always be included in treatment.
This account is from my own experience and names have been changed.