Suicide: When Reaching Out Isn’t Enough

August 12, 2014 | 84 Comments

close up of shannon's face with a dog's paw on her mouth

Potential triggers with talk of depression and suicide.

My friend Shauna took her own life this week. Another friend, Stacey, texted me from the funeral with this plea: “Please make me a promise if life gets hard or you need to talk, you always call. We can’t go through this again.”

And then came the news of Robin Williams.

My Facebook feed is full of friends posting suicide hotline numbers and urgent reminders to reach out and get help. Because, if Shauna and Robin Williams chose death, maybe they skipped that reaching-out-getting-help part?

I’ve been in therapy since I was a teenager. I’m on antidepressants and anxiety meds. I talk through my demons in trusted spaces (aka: the Internet). I cuddle my dogs and my kid and my mate. I’ve been on two self-help retreats. In June I used the suicide hotline for the first time.

I read books on depression, happiness, the myth of happiness, mindfulness, reducing depression with mindfulness, affirmations, the danger of affirmations, and anything else that might hold the goddamn secret key to unlock this dark hole of a room I’m sad, embarrassed, and angry to find myself in.

Please don’t assume suicidal people aren’t getting help. We are getting all the help. We have years and years of getting all the kinds of all the help.

Go ahead and post that suicide hotline number. I’ve used it and I’ll continue to use it. But even better, recognize that this darkness is a monster that — even with all the help and resources and puppy cuddles — is lonely and demoralizing and confusing and exhausting to fight. And please recognize all of the work we do to stay alive.

Because, sometimes, it’s so much work to stay alive, you guys.

I’m here despite some unspeakably strong urges to not be. I’m here. I’ll keep reaching out to ask for what I need and I’ll keep doing the work, I promise. But know that a life that ends in suicide isn’t evidence that the reaching-out-getting-help step was stopped or skipped. It’s evidence of the terrible truth that sometimes, none of it is enough.

I have no plans to die. I have a vibrating desire that lives and presses at the base of my neck, but no plans. If I ever do hatch a plan, I promise, promise, promise to tell someone. But please know that help doesn’t mean a person can’t or won’t see a plan through. The talking about it, the sleeping on it, the cuddles — they won’t always stop the looping lies that death is a person’s best option. A gift to yourself and those you love.

Because when you’re that deep-down dark, death takes the shape of a gift.

I don’t have a pretty way to wrap this up. I guess I wrote this hoping to tell you two things. Thing one is that suicide isn’t a product of not trying. Thing two is that sometimes all the right things won’t be enough. Depression is a disease and, like other diseases, it will sometimes have its own way regardless of what we throw at it.

Shauna did all the reaching-out-getting-help bits. I was witness to her hard work full of courage and sweat. But for her and for Robin Williams, it wasn’t enough.


If you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, I’m sorry and send love and compassion. I see you and I see the hard work you’re doing to stay alive and I’m thankful. I’m thankful for your life and thankful you’ve stayed with us. I know — I really, really know — how dark it gets. I’m here. We’re here.

You’re not weak or cowardly. You were dealt a shitty, shitty hand.

Years ago a friend had me program the suicide hotline number into my phone. It may have saved my life. Maybe it will save yours, too. It’s worth adding to our bag of survival tricks, right?

Go ahead and look up your local number. If you’re in the Vancouver area use (604) 872-3311 or 1-866-661-3311. If you’re wondering how weird it is to call — it’s weird. But it left me with some funny stories to tell and bought me time while the urgency drained.

Stay with us. Please, stay with us.

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