Has your heart ever ached when you heard about somebody committing suicide?
How do you cope with such a loss, especially when it is a youth in the community? The chances of getting affected by such news are increasing as there are approximately 123 suicides per day in the US. According to CDC data, suicide is currently one of the 10 leading causes of death overall and within each age group 10–64. Hearing stats is hard but hearing about someone you know committing suicide is harder. Let me share with you my recent experience and, hopefully, some of the tools that helped me may help you too.
Recently, I went to my daughter’s parent-teacher conference, and the teacher told me a young high schooler, one of her student’s brother, had committed suicide. She told me how hard it was for her to keep herself together. This boy was a ninth grader, a soccer player, a choir member and overall a very good student. He was also her student a few years back. She was feeling grief herself and was trying to figure out how to share the news with her students that their classmate had lost her brother.
As I was seeing patients that day, it was hard to keep my feelings under control.
But I just focused on my patient’s needs and that helped me get through my day. I just wanted to go home and hug my kids as soon as possible. When I picked the phone to send a condolence text to the mother of this boy, I saw her last message about taking her son to a soccer game. I felt miserable and could not stop my tears. If I was feeling this way, I couldn’t imagine how that mother must be feeling.
I needed to use some of the tools I teach in the Stress to Joy program.
I acknowledged that; “I am feeling grief. I am a human being, and it is ok to feel sad upon hearing such news. I am a mother and felt for this mother.”
Gradually, I calmed down by letting my emotions flow, and bringing attention to what I was doing.
I was driving home, so I started driving mindfully, bringing my attention to the moment. I became aware of my experience of both external and internal environment. I observed the sights, the sounds, and the smells. I noticed how I felt in my body as my hands were maneuvered the steering wheel, and my feet were automatically shifted pressure between the accelerator and brakes.
Once I calmed down, I started reflecting, initially in my head, then calling a friend and later in my journal.
My friend said that when she heard about suicide like that, she felt horrified. She started appreciating what she had in her life and stopped complaining about the small day to day issues with her kids. I also started appreciating.
As I reflected, I realized that in our individualistic society, people might think that their life is their own, and their actions don’t affect others. In fact, we are social beings and our actions affect many people, even those that we may not know.
I wondered, what could have been the stressors that surpassed this boy’s capacity to cope that he reverted to such drastic action? How can we prevent things like this from happening?
I know that there is a misconception that only people with a diagnosed mental illness will commit suicide. Although the rate of suicide is higher in people with mental illness, there are many people who are superficially doing fine in their day-to-day is life, but, when the stressors increase more than their capacity to cope, they break.
So what can we do?
Like in case of an infection, it is important to get antibiotics when infection occurs, and at the same time, it is also important to develop healthy habits like hand-washing to prevent more infections.
As in the case of a heart attack, it is critical that the person gets immediate care, and at the same time, it is very important to develop heart-healthy habits to prevent another heart attack.
Similarly, in the case of suicide, it is critical to get treatment for someone having suicidal thoughts.
It is also very important to think about developing mind healthy habits to prevent the suicidal thoughts from occurring.
But, do you have to wait till you develop an infection in order to start building healthy habits like hand washing? Or do you have to wait for a heart attack to happen in order to start developing heart-healthy habits? Similarly, you don’t have to wait for suicidal thoughts to occur before strengthening mind healthy habits.
When you develop mind healthy habits and get early treatment if necessary, you increase your resilience and joy which helps you cope with stress without breaking down and taking such drastic actions. The stress that leads up to suicide is temporary, but suicide is permanent. When a person takes his/her own life, in their mind, they think it is a solution; they don’t think that it could be a bigger problem. Who knows what happens after death? What if there is more pain or what if you have to come back and relive all the pain and still complete your life cycle?
I asked myself, what can I do to prevent suicides in the community?
I recognized that stopping that boy from killing himself was not in my control, but I can help some people from doing something like that in the future. it is in my circle of influence to teach the mind training tools to as many people as possible so they can manage their stress before it manages them and prevent unnecessary suffering and possibly suicide.
Therefore, I have been working on prevention education wherever and whenever possible in the form of individual teaching, group, and writing.
I have collected many mind training tools from my life and practice as a psychiatrist for the last 17 years in the form of the Stress to Joy program. My mission is to help at least a million people minimize their stress and prevent unnecessary suffering while maximizing their joy.
Many people who have done a lot of work in this area and this is my contribution to that work. What can you do?
Train your mind. Learn to dance with your stress instead of fighting with it. Adapt to your life challenges and see them as opportunities for growth and develop happiness and resilience to be able to face stress in your life.
Join me and share these tools with other people in your circle of influence.
Contribute your skills, knowledge and time in improving the society as a whole so we decrease the overall stress we create for everyone including our youth.
Please, join me in spreading these mind training tools and resources. Who knows how many lives you would be able to save. Remember, you may not know who is suffering because people can hide their distress until it is too late.
I have also attached info about the suicide prevention line below.
Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
Use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat.
Both are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
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The Stress to Joy® program is available in
I share many tools and techniques that I have found to be helpful. They are not intended to replace treatments. Please seek treatment from licensed medical or health professionals as needed. I change all names for privacy.