Support Andrus

Understanding Suicide

October 5, 2016

Get up and fight this, be strong, you have so much to live for…. Only a few things a person with depression hears on a consistent basis. We often try to give them reasons to live – we remind them of how talented they are or the things they should be grateful for. The problem with this is that a person with depression is not bereft of blessings; they are unable to feel good enough to enjoy all those gifts or the fact that they are so loved. It is not the absence of love or joy, just the absence of ability to clear one’s self doubt, anguish and frustration to feel at peace and happy. For our children, there is an added sense of guilt when they have had a parent or care giver give up trying and commit suicide. For them, there is a deep sense of accountability for not doing enough or not being good enough. They carry the burden of being the reason why their loved one didn’t want to live any longer. Intergenerational trauma and pain cause cycles of failed attempts at healthy relationships, frustration tolerance, and the will to overcome and fight. A person who is depressed experiences difficulties in finding the energy to identify triggers, at times wondering why the most menial of tasks is so exhausting and why operationalizing a plan is so complicated. We watch our loved one slip away, an empty stare, a lack of desire to engage in activities that once brought them joy. The instinct is to encourage them to fight, get out of that bed, leave your home, spend time with loved ones – when really, what they need is someone to validate their pain. Validate the negative voices in their head telling them not to do it, it will be too hard. Join them in sitting with the pain and exhaustion, and help them to ease their way through the day, calming the self-criticism that labels them as lazy and unmotivated.

Suicide is often perceived as the light that brings peace to a person suffering with depression. For our children, though, it is an escape that often brings unforeseen consequences. For a dear friend, it is a betrayal of the relationship that one thought they had with the deceased.

The stigma of depression often keeps a sufferer in silence. It is very different from someone who breaks a limb and may wear a cast and need to walk with crutches for a while. We sign the cast, send flowers, make meals; we wish the person a speedy recovery – all in an attempt to show concern and love. We often don’t do the same for a person suffering with depression- we try to fix it, we tell the person to get over it. Stop thinking about it, you have to fight this! Something we would never say if there were a physical ailment. It is less common for us to acknowledge that our brain may need healing. Suicide can then be viewed as a light for those who are unable to see it, even when it is all around them.

Bullying, especially prominent in our classrooms and through social media, seems to have increased the incidents of our children committing suicide due to the isolation and pain it causes. Humiliation and isolation is in strong correlation with our youth committing suicide. One of our main goals is to teach empathy- because empathy in what we describe as “Upstanders” is the ability to feel what someone else is feeling and look to care for another in a manner that is nurturing and validating. Empathy creates a guide for how we engage others in relationships, how we parent, and how we lead those who look to us for modeling. Hope is the Future of any person suffering with depression. It is the light to follow, as one journeys through Safety and Managing emotions related to internal turmoil and darkness. The Sanctuary Model teaches us to work with a person, whether a client or a peer, through validation of this process, the checking in with someone’s true feelings, creating a plan for engagement and develop a purpose and also requires accountability to someone else, never undermining the need for being true to yourself. True Sanctuary allows for the connection to occur while being true to one’s purpose and emotional state. It encourages dialogue, but also encourages sharing one’s experience through creative expression. The Hope and Future component comes as the journey is honored and validated. Brene Brown shares that “Hope is a function of struggle.”

Suicide destroys generations of families; the grief cripples parents, guardians, and children. It hinders the expression of joy, love, and pain in ways that brings generations of repressed anguish. Brene Brown also shares that “If we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Most importantly, reach out to a mental health provider. There is a large network within our agency to help navigate resources, supports, and services to address symptoms of hopelessness and depression. Depression is never a choice, but our choice to seek support and share our story will always be the best choice we make in surviving the fight.


Sandra Vilar-Ferreira, LCSW
Clinical Director of Residential Services