You Don’t Have To Understand Suicide To Empathize

December 12, 2017  |  

Golden Krust owner Lowell Hawthorne took his life on December 2 and many have expressed their sadness and disbelief over it on various social media outlets.

But there are also people who can’t comprehend how a wealthy businessman, who created a successful restaurant chain, would commit suicide. Comments ranged from “Whatever it is that he was going through there had to have been a solution for it because there is a solution for everything” to “How are you rich and kill yourself?” They showed how naïve many of us are regarding the topic of suicide.

depression and suicide

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I used to have similar sentiments of wondering why anyone would end their life, particularly prominent individuals. I assumed that having a family, a flourishing career and not being broke would be enough to pull anyone out of a dark cloud.

Unfortunately, my shortsightedness saw suicide as a purely selfish act and it wasn’t until, in recent years, when more suicides in the Black community were reported in the news, including the suicide of Black Lives Matter activist Marshawn McCarrel last year, that I started to look at things differently. According to the Washington Post, his final Facebook post said, “My demons won today. I’m sorry.”

Even though African Americans have the lowest suicide rate when compared to whites, American Indians and Asian/Pacific Islanders, there has been a slight increase since 2000 in deaths in this manner for Black men and women of all ages, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In fact, the suicide rate in Black children aged 5 to 11 doubled between 1993 and 2013. And the CDC reported that the suicide rates for Black men and women have increased for those between the ages of 45 to 64.

Terrie M. Williams, author of the book Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, mentions how African Americans are often taught to be stoic, which can “lead to denial, isolation and unspoken depression.”

Not only are many people silent about their struggles, but they also believe that they have great reason to take control of their demise.

There are several reasons that a person could want to end their life, including mental illness, bullying, substance abuse, loneliness and depression. While those might seem like issues one could overcome, experts say that all too often, people see death as freedom.

In his CNN.com article “I hate suicide but also understand it,” psychiatrist Charles Raison explained that pain from severe depression can become intolerable. He said he’s known people who have died of cancer but described the pain of depression as worse than their physical pain. Why?
“Because it is at its essence a perceptual disorder, it causes one to see the entire world as pain,” he wrote. “It feels painful inside, but it also feels painful outside.”

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who appear to be just fine but are secretly struggling, and there are warning signs to look out for if you suspect that a family member or close friend might be contemplating suicide. A few are feelings of hopelessness or being a burden, as well as rage, irritability or social isolation.

It can be extremely hard to empathize with a person who takes their life, leaving their family and close friends behind. Hearing of any death is horrible and while a suicide only adds to the amount of questions and increased angst for grievers, just remember that the person was battling personal demons that we could not even begin to understand. You might not like their decision, but that doesn’t mean it should be impossible to understand and empathize.

If you know of anyone who is fighting severe depression, show compassion, keep in touch regularly and let them know how important they are to you and others.

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