Saving a life

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day 2020, with the message ‘Connect Someone to Life’, by ‘Stepping Closer’.  I love how their video ends with ‘sometimes all it takes is a smile.

I imagine, much of what we’ll see and hear today will be about those individuals are ‘on the brink’, close to making the ultimate life choice.

As a psychotherapist, I am often working with clients wrestling with thoughts of suicide.  Jenni has also written an article for us today, where she lays out the internal dilemma of the life is precious / an individual’s right to decide.

I’d like to talk about what we can all do in our everyday lives, that will have a profound impact.  Prevention isn’t only that last-minute action, but the months and years preceding, the life we’ve led or had imposed on us, influenced by those in our lives.

How does it feel?

What leads someone to suicide is complex and not something I believe can be reduced to a sound-bite or a one-line diagnosis.  I’ve never had suicidal thoughts so it’s difficult to be in those shoes.  I’ve had times, when things are difficult, when I wish I could evaporate, but that’s more about “stepping off the bus” for a while, taking a break, switching problems off temporarily.  So describing the feeling can only be an interpretation of what I hear and read.

What I do know though, is that having strong connections and life purpose, of knowing we are of value to the world, will steer us all down a path that is in favour of staying alive, not one of despair when the only way out is through death.

It’s the little things

And I think this is where small actions come in.  If we are told, only through the occasional grand gesture, that we are valuable to the world, it’s less likely to stick.  In isolation, grand gestures tend to be about the giver, rather than the person they are intended for.  But if it’s re-enforced, on a regular basis, through small gestures and through true intimacy, then it has more chance of being absorbed. 

I launched the Campaign for Connection, to improve our connections with others.  It is through small, easy-to-action changes that we can all impact the lives of others.  Through the combined affect of lots of small changes in how we live and connect with each other, lives that may otherwise have led to suicidal thoughts may never even approach that kind of decision.

On the Campaign for Connection webpage, there is a “learn, say act” section which is updated regularly, with small bites of knowledge and recommendations which are designed to be easy to understand and act on.

An exercise for you

Looking for something to do today?  Make today the start of a small shift. 

How about trying to remove the words “need” and “should” from your vocabulary?  And I mean it in relation to yourself as well as others.  Saying “I really need to ring my friend” when you are overdue a catchup has a really different feel to “I really want to ring my friend”; same with “I really need to tidy the cupboard” vs “I do like a nice tidy cupboard” (or in my case: “the cupboards a mess. Never mind”!).

You may well save a life

Are you wondering how this exercise prevents suicide?  Through the exercise of thinking about the words we use, we’re connecting to ourselves, and ultimately to our sense of worth.  In both examples, by saying we ‘need’ to do something, we are negatively judging ourselves based on the (lack of) action (I’m bad because I haven’t rung my friend or tidied the cupboard).  If we re-think of them as activities that bring us joy (I love chatting with my friend, and it’s so satisfying to have everything neatly stacked), we remind ourselves what we love in our lives and our self-worth remains intact.  And in the end, if our self-worth is intact, we want to live.  Remember, the thought patterns and behaviours we model influence those around us. 

So, if it rubs off on someone else, you may well have saved their life.

Love,
Michelle

Join our campaign

Here at Counselling West Bridgford, our mission is to increase knowledge about loneliness and connection, bust some myths, and call on everyone to play your part in ending the global pandemic that is loneliness
campaign for connection

Two palm trees and the see in a sunset