Why “22” Will Never Change
Ever noticed how much the internet is abuzz about suicide? Every day you can visit any social networking platform and read at least one article about either a new suicide initiative or 10-20 people screaming that you should “reach out” if you need someone to talk to. These are people who have never dealt with the throws of suicide and depression and do not have a clue as to the thought cycle of someone with suicidal ideations.
I write this not because I am a cynical bastard but as someone who has supported the whole “Stop the 22” mantra, lost 24 friends to suicide, have had numerous suicidal ideations, and attempted it myself.
That’s right; I attempted suicide and have come close several other times.
To help you understand it, I will try and explain how it works. NOTE: This is my personal interpretation combined with information gleaned from others during group therapy; it is not applicable to everyone.
Imagine if you will a dense fog that settles in on you. It only affects you and no one else. Every time you have a thought, it is foggy. Every time you see something, it is foggy. Now imagine that happening for every aspect of your life, every single day, for an extended period of time. This is depression and leads to a feeling of hopelessness that you can’t get out of the fog. Some people will seek help when they reach this point but most won’t because the depression, like the fog, rolls in slowly. So slowly that most times the person affected doesn’t know, see, or feel the changes until it is already set.
Once that fog is fully established it creeps begins into everything: your thoughts, actions, relationships, work ethic, you name it. In some people it will be immediately noticeable, in others not so much. I fall into the “not so much” category. Over the years I have learned that a fake outer shell easily deters others from digging in. If I went to a mental health professional (I go every week), I automatically know the first thing they look at is my appearance and speech. It really is kind of like the old days of barracks inspections: if it looks clean and smells clean, chances are it is clean and no further investigation is necessary. Take a shower, put on clean clothes and smile…they will leave you alone. To further use the fog analogy, it is like turning on a light in the dense fog, it gives you short lived reprieve but nothing lasting.
You are now deep into the depression. The fog slowly eating away at your soul, neutralizing your motivations, caring seems so distant and you quickly forget how to. Remember, this isn’t something that just happens with a snap of a finger, it is months or even years of being beaten in your own mind by your own mind.
All you want is to be left alone. Thoughts, feelings, emotions move so slowly that they never fully dissipate, so every time you think of something else it is tainted with negativity and added to the already slow moving and rapidly filling pot. Eventually those unresolved thoughts and emotions begin to collide making them even more negative and sucking you into a vicious spin. The thoughts inspire negative emotions which, in turn, provoke more negative thoughts. Over and over this plays out, never ending and rapidly repeating. This cyclone of bad thoughts is the beginning of suicidal ideations. The deeper it goes, the faster it spins and the more the ideations come into play.
The only goal of suicide is to make it stop.
You feel like you no longer have control, you are a burden on everyone, you are not worthy of love, others will be better off without you and your negativity. The list can continue for any possible thought, just add a heavy dose of negativity and hopelessness. A truly suicidal person is not looking for attention, but rather relief.
With a quick squeeze of a finger, a swallow of a handful of pills, jerk of a steering wheel, and tip of a chair it is all over. A literal few seconds of time can relieve years of anguish and pain.
Some people will go to great lengths as to plan their deaths. They know the exact dosage of prescription medicine, conducting a suicide in a location and using additional measures to make the clean-up easier for others. Often times the planning is the accumulation of lessons learned from others and even their own ideations and failed attempts.
Notice I have never mentioned intervention during this cycle. There are signs that usually happen before a suicide takes place, we all know those but rarely are they actually recognized and acted upon.
I will tell you from experience that seeing all of the “Reach out,” “Talk to someone,” “22 until None,” blah blah blah is no more than changing your profile picture to a French Flag in support of the latest travesty in Europe. Actions that make you believe you are doing something, when in fact you are doing nothing at all.
If you want to change the course of suicide you have to start before the cycle starts spinning, both as an individual suffering and also the one intervening. You would be extremely lucky to prevent one after that spinning starts. I am not saying it cannot be done, just being truthful as to the chances of it happening.
I have absolutely no idea how to stop suicides, all I know is that the cyber campaigning going on right now has little to no effect on those of us prone to suicidal ideations. Eventually, those ideations will win out and the status quo will remain the same.
The truth is that with all of the campaigning over the last 5 years there has been no significant reduction of suicides in the Veteran population or any others. Maybe it’s time to accept the fact that you aren’t going to change it by screaming “REACH OUT” every 3 minutes and focus that time on yourself and those you personally know.