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Listening For Signs of Suicide: The Hard Truth
By Jessie Rae
Being a teenager is hard. It’s up and it’s down and it’s left and right and all over the place, all the time. Teenagers are described as moody, emotional and dramatic. These characterizations, while mildly applicable, are detrimental when it comes to understanding the signs of suicidal behavior. When does moody, emotional and dramatic become sad, depressed and suicidal? And when we finally figure that out, will it be too late?
I wish I had known that my friend was serious. I wish that I had taken him seriously when he made comments about death, about dying, or about (as was his favorite phrase) “disappearing.” He waged this invisible battle for as long as I had known him; he had given me countless signs that he sought peace and reprieve, but wasn’t finding it. As we traveled deeper into the bulk of adolescence, I bought into those colloquial characterizations more and more.
He talked about death with an almost eerie fascination and later, a reverence that piqued by concern. He never said, “I’m going to kill myself.” But he spoke many times of being curious about how dying would feel. I lost count of the number of times I had conversations with other friends about his behavior and our shared concern about his expressions.
He didn’t see a future for himself and expressed as much to me on multiple occasions. One summer night, I remember him saying about his future family, “I just don’t see myself there.” I mistook this for an adolescent’s exasperation with the mere thought of aging.
He wanted me to keep things that he’d given me as “mementos.” These comments were fleeting and merely made in passing. But after he committed suicide, I remembered them with a clarity that seared my soul. He would give me a sketch he’d done and say, in an amused way, “this will be worth a fortune after I die.” My heart weeps at the accuracy of this statement.
He was always tired. It was almost a way to describe him; he loved to sleep. But several times, his desire to stay in bed and sleep (I don’t mean lazy-around, I mean actually SLEEP) instead of come out with friends concerned me.
He would withdraw from me and his other friends, seemingly without cause or warning. Looking back, these times of withdrawal were often steeped in expressions of sadness and hopelessness.
He felt alone. He told me that he was often overcome with loneliness, that he was crushed by the sheer weight of feeling alone.
I wish I had known that I would only recognize these signs after it was too late. I wish I would see them for what they were: vivid signs that my friend was suicidal. Maybe teenagers are moody; maybe they are emotional and dramatic and somber. Or maybe they need help; maybe they need love and support and proof that they are worth saving.
Listen for the signs that a friend needs help. Even if they are being moody or dramatic, the fact that their distress was taken seriously and not brushed aside as an adverse effect of adolescence will resonate with them forever. The reality is that you never know their intentions until they come to fruition. Take the time, invest the energy into knowing what to look for and what being suicidal looks and sounds like. You never know if that little bit of observation is all it takes to save countless people a world of indescribable pain.
Suicide Sucks is working hard to provide you with an empathetic resource for strength, guidance, and a path to hope. We cannot thank you enough for your valor, your endurance, and your support through such devastating trials.
We hope you feel our genuine love and desire for your healing through these grievous times.