As with the suicides of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, there are an outpouring of posts giving the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and calls to reach out if you need to talk.
And of course, there’s the usual backlash of, “You should reach out to check on us if you’re so concerned!” It’s a back and forth I’ve seen repeatedly, and frankly, it’s getting very old, very fast.
So here’s my take on it, as someone who has reached out to others in the past, who’s talked people down from the ledge, who pulled a fucking knife away from a friend’s wrist when he was about to slice it open:
THIS GOES BOTH WAYS.
Yes, you want people to reach out to you. I get it. But I’ve also had times, more than I care to count, where I have reached out, and the reactions were:
1. Denial- “No, I’m fine. Really, I’m all good. You don’t have to worry about me.”
2. Silence. No response, no answer, no call back, no reply email.
3. Annoyance- “I told you I’m alright. Stop bothering me about this.”
As someone with psychological training as part of my education, it is incredibly frustrating to hear that. Why? Because you can’t force someone to get help, even if you know they need it. Their rights as individuals supersedes what you want for them. They don’t want help? It’s their choice not to get it. You can’t make them unless it’s under very certain circumstances.
Here’s another detail: Most people do not have the experience or training to tell when someone’s in the midst of a depressive episode. It’d be great if they all did, but they don’t. Without knowing what to look for, they have no way to tell what’s going on with you UNLESS YOU TELL THEM WHEN THEY ASK OR YOU SPEAK UP.
As for the hotline number, it’s not being done to foist you off on a stranger. It’s being done to guide you to talk to a person or group that has the training and knowledge to get you the help you need. Again, most people don’t know how to handle this, and their instinct is to try to direct you to someone who can. It’s done to help you, not make you feel rejected or neglected.
Oh, and did I mention that one person, with the daily trials of work, family, relationships, and general life maintenance, may not necessarily have the actual time to reach out? Realistically, the number of people you communicate with on a regular basis shrinks over the years because you don’t have the time to maintain all those relationships. They weaken, they grow distant. People move away, they have kids, they get married. Things happen, and the energy and time they consume makes it difficult to keep abreast of everyone you know. You got things to do. So do they. Expecting a one-sided conversation initiation is unfair.
So don’t be critical of those posting that number or asking you to reach out. They’re doing what they can to help, even if you perceive that it isn’t enough.