The number of suicides in New Zealand has reached its highest-ever level, with the Chief Coroner reporting 685 people dying in the year to June 30 2019.
That compares to the 2018 road toll where 377 lives were lost.
Of those who killed themselves, 73 percent were men and 27 percent were women.
A quarter were under the age of 25, 64 percent were aged 25 to 64, and 11 percent were aged 65 and over.
Alongside the desperately sad loss of those 685 people is an absence of meaningful agreement regarding how to reverse this awful upward trend.
Over the next few months, the “Straight Talk” column is going to include a brief series of articles entitled “Suicide Lies”, whereby commonly reported aspects of thinking and feeling, as shared by people who have contemplated or attempted suicide, are directly challenged.
It is hoped that in the challenge, the lie will be exposed to those who may have not previously recognised it for the falsehood that it is.
I won’t be able to recover from this awful experience
It may be a relationship break-up, the loss of someone close, a severe financial collapse, significant legal troubles, or an adverse childhood experience, the impact of which is bought into adulthood.
Whatever the cause, the core false assumption anchoring the above false belief is the same: “This experience now and forever will define who I am in the world”.
Who we are, what we do, and the experiences we have are all separate and distinct life components, and the boundaries between these components can become overwhelmingly and irrationally blurred in the mind and heart of someone experiencing suicidal ideation.
Each of the very challenging situations above have at their epicentre the loss of something defined as valuable, or the gain of something defined as unwelcome.
Navigating this emotional roller-coaster, and developing a resilience and acceptance of the natural and normal life experiences of loss, change, grief, injustice, betrayal, accountability, and powerlessness is the way through these experiences.
Worryingly, it seems that over the years some proponent advocates in education, law, parenting, and social services assistance have come to believe that no-one should have to ever experience any negative emotions whatsoever.
This has led to an emotional ‘dumbing down’ of people not being able to bounce back from negative experiences, and an end-of-life choice is then considered because an exam was failed, a partner left, a bankruptcy was made, or the person affected by the negative experience was ‘coached’ into believing that they were a victim, and would always be one.
None of these examples are legitimate life-ending triggers, however they have tragically resulted in life-ending decisions.
Recovery from an awful experience takes some time (but not forever), realism, truth, mentoring, acceptance, learning, and alternative options going forward.
Negative experiences (like positive ones) form the tapestry of our life journey, and most often in retrospect bring their own value and wisdom to future decisions we make.
Like all journeys, negative experiences are to be travelled through, not opted out of, if they are to have any true meaning at all, and with help if it is needed.
I am a burden
This lie is the ‘platform’ lie that anchors a number of other lies that the Suicide Lies series will cover over the next few months.
The heavy load of ‘burden’ thinking, feelings, and beliefs most often tries to convince people that they are in some way redundant to the world, and that others would simply be better off if they were not present.
Yet, indulging such a lie clouds one’s ability to consider what they do have to contribute, and there’s always something to contribute, be it to someone, or to something, in some way.
Such thinking also robs others of the choices they are making to support others in whatever fashion they may choose - those who care don’t actually need the permission of those they love to choose to care for them.
There does not have to be a set rule as to what this contribution MUST be, because things in life can and do change.
Our response is to adapt without losing ourselves in the process.
All that is needed is a willingness to test the possibilities of what this contribution COULD be.
The beauty of such a process is that there’s no demand to be ‘right’, but just simply a willingness to be wrong, while one journeys towards finding their place (or places) in the world.
This journey isn’t meant to be embarked upon alone, because a lot of other people out there, right now, are struggling with the same goal.
It behoves us to find them, or let them find us, as we do not have to do this journey called life, all alone.
The fact is, we all matter, we always did, and will, regardless of those who didn’t get this critically important life memo, which may also include us.
Sometimes we just need to lean on others, and leaning, far from making us a burden, simply makes us vulnerable for a time which in turn, affirms our humanity, which then gives others permission to be vulnerable with us as well.
People in crisis are NOT a burden. They may HAVE a burden, which by definition is too heavy right now for them to carry on their own.
Be sure to remind anyone you may know who may be in crisis, of this distinction, for as many times as they may need to hear it.
Steve is the Director of Relationship Matters Ltd. He holds two applied Bachelor's degrees (Counselling & Addiction) and a P.G. Dip. in Applied Social Practice. Steve is married with two children and lives in West Auckland.