This guest article from YourTango was written by Teresa Maples.
Tragedy strikes and we wonder what happened. How can a talented country singer with two small children take her own life?
In the aftermath of Mindy McCready’s apparent suicide, many close friends, family members and fans are all asking the same question, “Why?” We can never know for sure why she did it. A better question may be, “How can we help those who are in despair?” How can we prevent others from committing suicide?
First let’s try to understand what may be happening for people who attempt or commit suicide, and then we’ll explore some ways you can help.
The problem: Feeling isolated and alone.
The solution: Spending time with loved ones.
Mindy’s boyfriend died by apparent suicide in the same home in which she lived. Her children had been taken into foster care for their safety. She was home alone where a horrendous trauma had occurred one month prior the night of her death.
Anytime someone is isolated, their thinking can become irrational which may lead to acting on the irrational thinking. People need one another for support. If you are considering suicide, tell someone. If you are a friend of someone considering suicide, stay with him/her, take him/her to a therapist or an emergency room for evaluation. Arrange for someone to stay with the suicidal person so he/she is not alone. Let the suicidal person talk to you, and just listen. Try to understand how much pain he/she in and offer hope after he/she has told his/her story.
The problem: Feeling emotional and/or physical pain.
The solution: Using healthy coping tools.
Sometimes the feeling of pain is so great people just want to stop feeling. In the moment, they believe ending their life will stop the deep pain. They are not aware of the pain they will leave behind for their friends and family. Feelings are real and they do pass. I don’t know anyone who died by feeling an emotion. People die from taking action in the midst of emotional pain.
Healthy coping tools include deep breathing, meditation, art, exercise, tell your story to someone, journal about the pain, do yoga, go for a walk and get professional help. Friends and family can learn these coping tools too. Use the tools together when you are with your loved one in pain.
The problem: Addiction and mental health problems.
The solution: Seeking professional help.
Alcohol and drug addiction are coping mechanisms to deal with pain of any kind. People learn to cope with the pain by using an addiction. Addicts don’t have healthy tools to deal with emotional pain or they would use them. They rely on a neurochemical called dopamine that activates the brains reward center. The reward center produces chemicals that make us feel better. Instead of using drugs and alcohol, a healthy coping mechanism may be to use a healthy coping tool (see above) to activate the reward center.
Sometimes people have underlying mental health issues like depression, anxiety or a mood disorder that is untreated. Getting treatment can help by identifying these disorders of the brain and stabilizing a person’s mood with medications or intentional coping strategies.
Mindy appeared on the Dr. Drew show Celebrity Rehab in 2009. She had both mental health and addiction issues. Previously, Mindy attempted to take her life in 2005 and in 2008. Multiple attempts at suicide make a person even higher risk for completing a suicide. After the trauma of her boyfriend’s death in January, Mindy had a perfect storm for relapse into addiction. Her children being placed in foster care would also indicate that she had relapsed.
How to Help Someone with Depression Who is Suicidal
Help them get into treatment, arrange for round the clock supervision of the person. Remove all weapons including guns, knives and other sharp objects out of the home. Support for a suicidal person includes listening to their pain story. They don’t need you to fix them. Take an interest in them as a person and remind the suicidal person of their importance as a friend, parent, sister, brother, etc. Let them know their life matters to you. Here are some more tips on how to help someone who is suicidal.
Sometimes a suicide attempt is a cry for help. The person doesn’t really want to die but doesn’t know how to ask for help or is unwilling to receive help. Mindy had many indicators that she was in distress and at risk for suicide. It is clearly a tragedy when anyone takes their own life. Let us all be conscious when those around us are in distress. Sometimes we do the best we can and the person takes their life anyways. It is not your fault, you can’t prevent someone who is intent on harming themselves.
I send blessings of peace and love to those who are survivors of a suicide. Give yourself the gift of community and share your story with others so they can help share the burden you are carrying.
If you would like more information to make your Couple-ship Thrive please sign up for my newsletter. You may also connect with me on my website Teresa Maples LMHC, CSAT and on twitter.
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