Suicide is the single most anguished gesture a person can make. Friends and family left behind often find themselves struggling to make sense of the act – was it a cry of shame, or pain, or fear, or perhaps just a function of emotional exhaustion? Specialists in psychology know that suicide is intimately associated with depression, which is one reason so many careful questions are asked whenever depression warrants hospitalization. Yet these efforts have generally failed to reduce the overall rate of suicide in America, which has risen sharply over the last two decades. Now a new population of people is speaking up for their chance to help: those who have tried, and failed, to take their own life:
Plans for speakers bureaus of survivors willing to tell their stories are well underway, as is research to measure the effect of such testimony on audiences. For decades, mental health organizations have featured speakers with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. But until now, suicide has been virtually taboo, because of not only shame and stigma, but also fears that talking about the act could give others ideas about how to do it.
There is no doubt that fellowship and community have been established to provide comfort to many people with mental health issues. Although such fellowships are only moderately successful with compulsive acts like addiction, they may prove more successful for disorders like depression, which are often marked by a pervasive sense of isolation.