Why we have a suicide epidemic

It’s hard to comprehend that people can reach a point in their minds where death isn’t the scariest thing anymore.

But it happens.

I recently watched the documentary ‘Our Silent Emergency by Roman Kemp’ which I recommend. In the doc Roman talks about how he lost his best mate last year to suicide. Joe was the happy go lucky guy of the group, a producer for the BBC and always laughing. He was ‘the last you’d expect’.

What’s going on here?

If we’re calling someone our ‘best friend’ how do we not know what’s going on beneath the facade of everyday life?

Do we even notice there’s a facade?

Superficial Relationships

In our society there’s an element of superficiality in relationships.

If you have someone in your life who you feel you can turn to in your darkest moments then this is a blessing.

Most people don’t.

“There’s a study that asked Americans how many close friends they could turn too in a crisis. When they started, the most common answer was five. Today, the most common answer is none.”

Johann Harri, Author of Lost Connections

And you don’t realise this until you hit your bottom. In that moment of desperation you grab your phone to call someone and that’s when you really discover who you can call.

My list was 2 people. My therapist and my cousin.

You may hear: ‘you can call me anytime’ from friends but this doesn’t mean that you will or that this person has the capacity to hold a space for you when you really are vulnerable.

So, our availability isn’t based on what we say to others. It’s in our capacity to hold a space. To listen to vulnerability and let that person in. If we gain any sense that it would be too uncomfortable for another person we won’t engage them in our lowest moments.

And it’s this superficiality that runs riot in many friends groups. It’s not that people don’t want to be there for others, it’s that they don’t have the capacity to be there.

And the sad thing is we have no reference point for authenticity so we’re unaware our relationships contain superficiality and that our friends are suffering beneath the surface of the social facade.

There’s no space to ‘get real’. It’s all banter and reminiscing which is lovely. However, if there isn’t room for ‘real talk’ then where do all our feelings go?

Neglecting our inner worlds of thoughts and feelings doesn’t mean they cease to exist.

And if we don’t have a space to open up, to feel heard and be safe then the feelings don’t get processed. This is the inner disturbance we feel. The discomfort of sitting with ourselves. And why dependency on people, shopping, alcohol etc. is so rife in our culture.

The unprocessed feelings are trapped energy that bubble beneath the surface. Held together by the things and people we depend on.

If we lose those things or people we can implode.

Are you happy or just distracted?

It’s a very tiring way of living. Life is ‘same old’.

And we can’t break free from the shackles of superficiality until we become aware of the cage we’re in.

This tends to happen when the persons suffering eventually overwhelms the fear of change. What we refer to as a ‘rock bottom’. But the incredibly tragic fact is not everyone makes it out of their rock bottom. When they hit the rocks they feel there’s no turning back. When in actual fact hitting the rocks can be the best thing that’s ever happened.

For it’s the fall that wakes you up to the reality that you’re living in.

That your anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, despair. All of it is a symptom of your past. The world you were brought into and the relationships with your primary caregivers. And the mere fact that none of it has been processed or integrated into who you are in this moment.

We think the hole we’re in is symbolic of the moment: a break up, a lost job, a bereavement. But the hole was always there within is. We just filled it with people and things. And now the suffering has overwhelmed our willingness to fill up that hole with people and things we have two choices:

Kill ourselves or get help.

But what help?

I kept hearing this in the documentary: ‘there’s help out there’.

But what help? And where is it?

Talk therapy and anti-depressants is the general public opinion now. And that’s progress considering my parents generation drank wine and kept the ‘heads held high’.

You go to a GP and you’ll be prescribed Sertraline or Fluoxetine – this is exactly what happened to me. I was in therapy for four years as well and I still felt devoid of any vitality and joy.

I’m not against anti-depressants or talk therapy just to clarify. Anti-depressants saved my life and I’m training to be a therapist. It’s no wonder though that people find it hard to be invigorated by ‘there’s help out there’.

The waitlist for therapy in the NHS can last months and anti-depressants haven’t put a dent in depression or anxiety rates (which are still on the rise). So, it’s clear that medication and therapy can be a valuable lifeline to give people some breathing time above the water. However in so many cases it’s not the life raft that will carry them to safety.

It’s a part of the solution. But’s it’s not the entirety.

What’s the solution then?

My sense is that deep down, sometimes not that deep, we know what we need. We just don’t want to do it. When our needs and our wants line up that’s when evolution happens.

All the modalities in the world share one thing in common: they’re designed to help a human turn towards themselves.

To face their past and integrate the darkness.

Everything from ayahuasca to somatic experiencing is a way of reframing the past and letting go of the impression it’s left on us that’s interfering with our ability to be present now.

We need to have a safe space where we can feel heard, supported and held. And we also need the honesty, openness and willingness to share.

If you’re willing and want to try something outside of anti-depressants and talk therapy below are some of the most powerful options I’ve come across so far.

Addiction – 12 Step Communities

Joining a 12 Step community can be one of the most life changing things a person can do.

There is a worldwide pandemic of loneliness.

A symptom of how disconnected we are as a species in this highly competitive consumerist culture. Getting a sense of community and belonging is integral to being a human. If we don’t have this our spirit will let us know in the form of loneliness.

Community, daily support and a sense of belonging are just some of things on offer if one is to join 12 Step community.

Anxiety – Social Media/Smartphone

So many of us are oblivious to just how anxious our social media accounts are making us. The younger generation have no reference point to a time when social media didn’t rule our lives.

So we have forgotten how un-anxious we were.

Breaking free from the shackles of social media and smartphone usage could be the answer you’re looking for.

This article prepares you for a detox.

Compassionate Enquiry

Compassionate Inquiry® is a psychotherapeutic approach developed by Dr. Gabor Maté.

Through Compassionate Inquiry, the client can recognize the unconscious dynamics that run their lives and how to liberate themselves from them.

This is an incredible alteration to traditional talk therapy and well worth checking out.

Self Examination

How well do you really know yourself? What are your core fears? What triggers you and why?

Becoming fascinated with what is lurking beneath the image we project to the world is essential to growth.

Here’s a few ways you can develop a self-examination practice:

  • Read philosophy and reflect (Anthony De Mello, Alan Watts and Michael Singer are some of my favourites.)
  • Become aware of your own thoughts. You are not in control of them. Notice the voice in your head and put it through the same sceptical filter that other peoples words go through.
  • Sit with your self in prolonged silence and see what comes up. This is the quickest way to figure out what it is that lurks beneath. When it comes up write it all down and reflect.
  • Journaling enquiry. Here’s a few questions that have changed my life: How would the wisest most compassionate part of me respond? What is this moment I’m in asking of me? What do I want to do with my life?

If you’re in a moment of utter desperation and find yourself with no one to call Samaritans are incredible. I called them in 2018 and feel so grateful that they exist.

It’s free and you can call anytime: 116 123

Published by WillAdolphy

Trainee therapist, host of the 'Into the Void' podcast and Artistic Director of Flux Theatre.

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