Discussing Suicide



With the return of the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why," the recent suicides of two celebrities overwhelming the news, and suicide rates on the rise in the US, the need to discuss suicide in a kind, empathic way is becoming more and more important.


Suicide is not a word we should be afraid, unless of course we say it with judgment or hostility. Suicide is a word we need to stay more often in the context of support and love. Some people fear that saying the word suicide summons it, as though someone dealing with an ache so deep they'd rather not exist hasn't already thought about it.

For those who suffer, please know you're not alone. I know it may seem like you are, like there's no end to this darkness, like it's all so overwhelming... or underwhelming. But there are those who will understand. There are those who can be with you during this time. Let them be. Reach out to loved ones for support, or contact the following numbers to connect with trained and empathic people who can help you through this remarkable pain:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK.

  • Or text HOME to 741741 for free 24/7 crisis support in the US.

  • Military veterans, service members and their families can call 1-800-273-8255 (press 1), text 838255, or chat online.

  • Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQIA crisis support: 1-866-488-7386.

  • Para apoyo de crisis en español, llame al 1-888-628-9454.


For those who struggle to understand, it's okay. It's okay to not understand, but it's not okay to judge, belittle, or ridicule those who struggle.

It is important to remember that studies show suicide comes with a contagion effect. In other words, instances of suicide spike after someone well-known or influential in one's life kills them self. The recent suicides of some notable figures and frequent commentary on suicide running the news this week means your friends and loved ones who suffer from depression and suicidal ideation are vulnerable right now.

Here are some ways you can look for early warning signs and lend your support. And here's how you can try to understand suicide when you think it's "selfish" or "weak." It's neither of those things, and you should take some efforts to learn why.


If you have lost a loved one to suicide and need counseling or support, call or text the Samaritans at 1-877-870-HOPE (4673).

To help understand suicidality a bit more, I'll share a personally impactful quote from David Foster Wallace, an iconic author who fought depression his whole life and eventually died by suicide:

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

Military Veterans who struggle with depression and PTSD may likely feel misunderstood by civilian helplines. If you're a veteran, service member, or family member, whether or not you're registered with the VA, you can call 1-800-273-8255 (press 1), send a text message to 838255, or chat online to receive free, confidential support 24/7/365. You can also reach out to Mission22, an organization that offers support to Veterans and helps ensure they're able to afford treatment.

Honest conversations about suicide and suicide prevention have been shown to reduce rates of suicide. This can be especially important for adolescents to hear from adults. You might think that talking about suicide to children will put the thought in their head and make them suddenly suicidal. But it doesn't work that way. A child or teenager who struggles with depression may already have these thoughts and hearing an adult address it head on can save their life. Here are some ways you can talk to your kids about suicide deaths and educate them on how to get support if they need it. Remember, if you're experiencing depression or thoughts of killing yourself, please reach out for support. There is hope, and there are people who care about you.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK.

  • Or text HOME to 741741 for free 24/7 crisis support in the US.

  • Military veterans, service members and their families can call 1-800-273-8255 (press 1), text 838255, or chat online

  • Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQIA crisis support: 1-866-488-7386.

  • Para apoyo de crisis en español, llame al 1-888-628-9454.

  • If you have lost a loved one to suicide and need counseling or support, call or text the Samaritans at 1-877-870-HOPE (4673).

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