Over the weekend I got a message from a reader. The son of a friend had died by suicide. She was looking for guidance.
I get messages like this from a friend or a reader three or four times a year. And I occasionally get questions when a friend is worrying about someone. Several times a year is not that often, one might say, but when you are talking suicide any frequency is too often.
(On a side bar and a lighter note, people send me penis-related articles, videos, and information on art installations with slightly more frequency. I do not know how I became that person to so many.)
The messages always make me sit down and cry. Always.
I sob for the pain of those dealing with fresh loss. I weep for the person who got to the point of no alternative.
Nick and I were talking about it and he said, "Wouldn't you have some idea that it was coming, that the person was depressed?"
Not always, no. But you might have some indication. It's worth knowing what to look and listen for.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a list of warning signs. There are also FAQs on how to respond, for example, when someone tells you they are contemplating suicide.
And, if someone has died by suicide, they have resources for coping with loss.
I wrote about this last year, and that post has more links and my thoughts on how to be there for someone who has lost a loved one to suicide.
Depression and suicide are still highly stigmatized. It's an awkward thing to talk about, and people will not necessarily let you in, no matter how close you are.
For many of us, winter is not our friend. People who aren't affected think it's the cold. "But it's been such a mild winter!"
It's not the cold. It is the dark. Or rather, the lack of light.
(In summer it's not the heat; it's the humidity.)
In winter the darkness starts early and lasts too long and for some, it is suffocating. One cannot simply cheer up and go dancing.
Years ago I took First Aid and CPR. And it stressed me the hell out, because once I knew what to do if someone was having a heart attack or choking, I felt like I had to be ready to respond when I was out and about. It was awful.
I'm not suggesting hyper-vigilance. You don't need to be constantly scanning the room for the potential choking victim.
I'm just saying that people struggle, and you may know someone who needs you.