Friday, September 10, 2010


This post forms part of Bloggers Unite World Suicide Prevention Day action.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and when I mentioned this on facebook earlier, a friend of mine made a good point about the rights of terminally ill people to end their lives if they wish.  Anyone who has watched a loved one suffer will understand his point and I have personal experience of helplessly sitting at a hospital bedside and wishing I could end it.  But the whole issue is fraught with difficulties and euthanasia is not what I want to concentrate on here.

Without wishing to belittle that terrible dilemma, the people I have been thinking about today are those who feel so alone and or so low that they cannot see a way or a reason to go on living.  If you have never been in this position you are very, very lucky and what I think is not understood is that it can be a seemingly small issue which finally literally pushes someone over the edge.  This is nowhere better illustrated than in a French film called Mina Tannenbaum:  Martine Dugowson's film is a tale of two Jewish girls who grow up together in Paris.  They are drawn to each other because they feel they are outsiders but their adult lives take them in very different directions.  At the end of the film Mina, feeling alone and despised, makes a desperate call to her childhood friend, who does not answer.  Mina then commits suicide.

For most of us, life centres around three areas:  our relationships, job and money.  And most of us can cope if  we have difficulties in one of these areas.  If, however, two or even three of these important areas of our lives are going badly and on top of this we feel alone, then we can become desperate.  Let me say something about that word "alone" because you can be alone without being lonely, just as you can be lonely in a crowd. So I would define "alone" in this context as feeling that no one will understand you.

Someone who has made a mistake in their life knows they have been stupid and what they need is understanding, not judgement.  We, their friends,  are sometimes guilty of not providing that understanding either because we genuinely cannot imagine the other person's position or because we view their life as rosy - something that is very easy to do:  to the single person the support of a marriage seems wonderful while to the married the "freedom" that they perceive the single person has is attractive.  So the married person may not understand that when she caresses her husband in front of her single friend, she could not cause more hurt if she physically twisted a knife into her body; or that if she calls her from a crowded house on a bank holiday, she makes her feel lonely rather than alone, thus upsetting a delicate balance.  Meanwhile it is impossible for the single person to comprehend that her married friend is longing for a day to herself!

But, since we are not mind readers and cannot totally understand another person's vulnerabilities, what are we to do?  This is going to sound contradictory in view of the example I have just given about the phone call, but I would say,  "Follow your instincts".  The writer Françoise Sagan has this to say on the issue:

"With a little imagination you can put yourself in another's position and think, 'He looked a bit strange tonight.  Perhaps I should give him a ring.'  You may have rung him just in time to to stop him taking an overdose of sleeping pills .  It's just as likely that he was in a good mood and your call disturbed him, so you look foolish.... Being imaginative is more important than never making a fool of yourself...  If you don't have imagination you're lost. But it's a virtue that's becoming extremely rare, especially in its higher form: spontaneity."

My facebook friend joked about World Suicide Prevention Day, saying, "OK, I won't kill myself till Monday".  But this is exactly the point.  If someone can be persuaded to wait, to talk, to realise that there is a tomorrow, they may decide to go on living.  And that is what today is all about.


Rosaria Williams said...

Suicide is too often swept under the rug, not understood and not on everybody's radar. This is a wonderful public service announcement for the blogosphere.

Betty said...

A very important and informative post. You made some very good points.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, lakeviewer. Yes, it is not discussed enough and there is still a stigma. Thanks, Betty.

allucanbe said...

Really enjoyed your post to support WSPD, I had 2 blogs up because I'm so passionate about raising awareness around suicide with the hopes to educate and reduce the ever present stigma.

Just now getting around to reading some of the many other blogs and seeing everyone's contribution.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hello, allucabe and thank you for commenting here. I'm slowly getting round some of the other posts, too. You are so right about the stigma.


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