Something interesting happened to me when the news of Robin Williams taking his life hit the headlines and every internet site on the planet. I found that while everyone else was talking about suicide, I really did not want to, so I lost momentum for my blog. And I am a person who really needs momentum. So I am curious about my reaction and I think there are several facets. Like any tragedy that hits the worldwide headlines, suddenly it throws an issue into the spotlight and behold, everyone has an opinion.
Part of me remained curious. Would this elicit more empathy, more understanding, more awareness, more openness to talk? I think perhaps there were some small shifts in public perception, but generally, everyone was shocked and confused. Because, we can spout our theories, we can do our research, we can count our numbers, but really, we are mostly, still confused about suicide.
It is such a personal, individual decision. Yes, of course there are themes. Yes, of course there are things we can know that are helpful. But at the end of that dark tunnel that marks the end of our life, we stand alone. Whatever takes our life away, we stand alone. Whoever is beside us at the moment of our passing, we stand alone. It’s me and me baby, looking into the abyss, the end of my time and I am alone.
So, the decision for suicide is taken – alone. That is why on an individual level, no one can really know what was going through a person’s head or heart. And we so desperately want to know. We want answers. So we hypothesize. But we will never really know.
"We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone." Orson Welles
And so, that leads me to the other reactions to a very public death by suicide. The shaming, the criticism, the labeling, the disbelief that someone would end their own life. They are selfish, gutless, faithless, hopeless, worthless better off dead. Yes, that is actually what some people think and that is what they say (or type) out loud, in public. The diatribe became louder and louder and I had to literally switch off – my computer. I guess it did give me a chance to reflect on my own lack of tolerance of people with a lack of tolerance. Yes, I’m aware of the irony.
It also highlights to me, that sometimes talking about, working with suicide, all the time can become overwhelming. It is difficult work and sometimes we need to do something else for a while, no matter how passionate we are. Even very productive work can be avoidance – of something.
Dr Murphy - signing out.