Waking up in the morning, waking up to some knowledge – to see something in a new way for the first time – is part of life, of everyday life.
Observing news coverage lately about suicide – in particular, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.
People who lived life on a scale of success, money and fame most of us will never achieve. Celebrity and money kept them apart from, aloof from, far away from most of us. We read about their triumphs – and even in death by their own choice, their privacy is a mystery that enterprising journalists crave to exploit. I get it.
But something deserves clarification and better understanding.
On June 8th, the regular morning news of the world, politics and Trump-stupidity du jour on CNN was interrupted by announcement of Bourdain’s suicide by hanging. Among other things, CNN broadcast a suicide hotline number, urging those who are feeling suicidal to call that 1-800 number.
While boosting awareness of a phone number is good, I’m not sure it alone offers much help, because the person thinking about taking their own life is not in a normal rational state whereby they can say, “hey, I better call someone and ask for help” … because they can’t, won’t and cannot see a way out let alone see their life as valuable. I call it temporary insanity. What the CNNs of the world ought to be championing, in my opinion, is greater awareness of the people around us, watching for signs that our friends, family, colleagues and neighbours need help – and then helping. Talking, taking interest, offering shoulder and ear – but in a real way, a meaningful way. That can help, in my view, far more than offering a phone number to call and then going about our day.
I’ve written about this before, spoken about his before and I try, as I am right now, to help someone I know is in trouble. It’s in his words, it’s in things he lets slip in conversation that I know I should be worried. I’m reaching out. I might be wrong, he might just be going through a rough patch – he might just be ‘thinking out loud’ without any suicidal thoughts. I hope, of course, that I’m wrong. Maybe that’s a fear some people have – that they might overstep, or reach out inappropriately. But really, now tough is it to show interest in someone, to touch a shoulder or shake a hand, to look someone in the eye and ask them, tell them, question them – starting with, “I’m worried about you – and I want to help you in any way I can, because you matter to me”.
How tough is that? Start, just start, with a word or a gesture. Better to make a mistake than to do nothing. Better to be wrong than to be right and to have done nothing.