Recovery is shaped by responses: good , bad or indifferent. What we say - what we do matters. As teachers, parents, friends, neighbors, business partners, employers, medical or social workers - in fact who ever we are in relation to those who are experiencing bewilderment and pain, our actions count.
Research shows us that how we handle the aftermath directly affects what happens next for those left reeling. The cliche is true. We can be part of the problem or part of the solution.
Speaker credibility (again):
Unfortunately I know this from personal experience. You can avoid those people - cut them from your life. Reject them as though they're contagious. Or blame and shame them. It was something they did. The fault lay in them. Or talk about anything else except this event, this person who is gone. Or peddle platitudes: you'll get over it and time will heal. Or you can credit the event as evidence of that person's tragic but heroic personality. They were too big, too intelligent, creative or sensitive for this life. Suicide was their only option. All of that and more happened in and to my family.
The long term effects of not being allowed, able or encouraged to express ourselves openly or honestly about our father's disappearance haunted all of us in varying forms.
We lugged deep-seated guilt around for years.
To be part of the solution, which I know you want to be, is to open yourself, to acknowledge your own fear of suicide and to learn how to support either yourself or others who need it.
Step Three - Body
With support we know we can lessen the long term impact. We can't take away the initial pain, the horror, the sense of betrayal, shame or anger but we can work towards a resolution equipping people to emerge from the experience strengthened and healthy.
For children and young people that means finding safe support groups and mentors.
We are fortunate in NZ. Yes, it's one of those bitter ironies; the country whose youth topped the charts for topping themselves in the 1990's, has gone to develop an extraordinary multifaceted program whose principal aim is suicide prevention. That program saves lives as well as lessening long term harm frequently visited on the nearest and dearest. Statistics show suicide has dropped by 20%.
We also know, due to in-depth studies, more about factors leading up suicide and how to recognize them in ourselves and others.
Out of our collective pain has come a valuable life affirming hub of knowledge.
Main Idea Two (Counteracting Opposition and Visualization)
Now there is no need to unwittingly cause more pain through either ignorance or the misguided belief that through not talking about it, it will disappear. And for that I am grateful. This wasn't there when my family most needed it but it is there now.
Let's make sure we use it.
There is widespread and understandable concern about publicly discussing suicide. In fact so much so that our media is governed by law. The Coroners Act 2006 makes it illegal to "publish particulars of a death publicly if there is reasonable cause to believe the death was self-inflicted, or, without a coroner’s authority if no inquiry into the death has been completed. The section has further guidelines on what can be reported once a coroner has found a death to be self-inflicted."
We know from research there is a direct correlation between how suicide is reported and subsequent events. Coverage of a high profile celebrity suicide which romanticizes and idealizes the person's action and life spawns copy-catting. As does describing the method chosen or making the event front page news. What's forgotten in the desire to protect us from our own vulnerabilities is that the ending is the final act in a much longer story.
That story needs telling. It's the one that strips out hysteria, fear and any misplaced glorification and instead focuses on the road leading to the act. What signs were there along the way? How and why did we miss reading them? What can we learn from that?
Knowledge is power. When it is collectively shared, its affect ripples outward embracing more and more and changes occur. Destructive patterns are broken. New pathways are forged and attitudinal shifts are made.
Who ever you are, where ever you are, it is now true more than ever that you do not need to walk your path alone.
Main Idea Three (Visualization cont.)
The internet, that vast interlinking web makes it possible to access the information you need almost immediately.
There's information for Community Organizations, Family and Friends, the Media and Health Practitioners. You'll find links to extensive resources and research, both national and international.
The 'What can I do?' tab addresses personal issues - amongst others: how to support a suicidal person. Whatever group you belong to you'll find stories - empowering, enriching and real. Stories from teens, celebrities, sports people, mums, dads, and professionals all of whom have been united in some way by suicide. They've been forced to stop, think, reconsider and reconnect.
What can you do to make a difference? Read, learn, refer, join the discussion at events, donate your time and expertise. It's easy to find a way that is right and appropriate for you.
We know for every one death by suicide there are at least six people profoundly affected. Those six people interact with at least six others and although the impact on them is diluted it's still there. Those six know six more and so it goes, wider and wider.
That is to spread understanding, compassion, practical love and support through knowledge. We are all worth it. Do it for those who live as well as for those who have died.
And do it now!
I invite you all to find out more by accepting a flyer outlining the services and help available.
If you need to talk to someone about anything related to what I've said, please either see me afterwards or one of the SPINZ spokespeople in the audience. You can spot them by their smile and their badges.
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