Halloween is not what it seems.. not for everyone at least.

I acknowledge that each of you comes to this page with your own unique life experiences, and perspectives to offer. This contributes to the way you perceive several types of data and ideas explored. In this article, I will cover a variety of topics, some of which you may find triggering. These topics include suicide completion, successful suicide attempts, suicide methods, and near-fatal PTSD. So I felt it is best this was marked in the beginning, and you can avoid reading this altogether. Please stay safe. 

The night of Halloween is rapidly approaching. It’s one of the most anticipated (if not the most celebrated) times of the year in our household. And every year, we go a little overboard with our holiday decorations… Pumpkins and black cats adorn almost every part of the house. 

We don’t overdo it so much with the outside, but I notice that some people like to add skeletons strung amongst the trees. So I always find myself wondering how trauma survivors or those with near-fatal PTSD navigate through this holiday. How does one get through Halloween after having witnessed a suicide or having found someone hanged? It is said that one person passes via suicide every 11 minutes, so even if I tried to add the statistics here, it would mean nothing by the time you read this. Imagine for every person passing, how many people are left behind wondering why, how, and what they could have done differently.

Sometimes it’s hard to put oneself in another person’s shoes and grasp why they might wish to take their own life. Suicide, however, is a major killer worldwide, while still being taboo.

Committing suicide is the word most commonly used to describe this phenomenon. But “commit” suggests criminality, which can reinforce negative connotations for the victim; so it has recently been replaced by the term ‘completing suicide’, as it is a result of the long-term symptom of underlying conditions and circumstances experienced by the person. 

People contemplate suicide for a variety of reasons. When a person commits suicide, it is often because they have been struggling with painful thoughts, feelings, or experiences for a long time and can’t take it anymore.

When suicidal thoughts begin to arise, a person may experience a wide range of emotions, including but not limited to disappointment, sadness, and guilt. Powerful feelings of shame, hatred, or a desire for vengeance towards themselves, a conviction that they are worthless and that their life is not worth living, a fear that their circumstances will never improve, and a belief that they are confined physically or emotionally are common feelings and thoughts of the person looking to complete.

There could be a number of causes for such emotions. Some examples are the death of a loved one, harassment, discrimination, or abuse, and a dramatic shift in one’s living situation, such as a breakup, loss of employment, retirement, or even homelessness. 

However, suicidal thoughts do not necessarily result from a particular life event, and not everyone who goes through such an event really commits suicide. There is no single “human” reaction to hardship.

People are more likely to commit suicide if they are socially isolated, have few social supports, or have a mental health issue that is either undiagnosed or improperly treated. Conversely, having access to adequate healthcare and social support greatly reduces this risk.

What red flags should you look out for?

There are warning indicators to look out for when someone is having suicidal thoughts, such as expressing a desire to end one’s life, expressing a sense of being hemmed in, having one’s hopes dashed, or experiencing excruciating pain. Talking about how much of a burden they are on others; planning or looking for ways to harm themselves, such as acquiring firearms or other weapons, stockpiling medications, or searching online are also behaviors to look out for. Having said this, let me also underline that many times they say nothing at all, to no one.. especially when they have made up their mind privately and don’t want anyone to try and stop them. 

Bringing up the topic might be hard, but it’s for a greater cause

Bringing up the topic of suicide does not raise the likelihood that someone will actually attempt suicide. If people feel safe enough to talk about the things they’re going through, it may even reduce the risk.

It may feel intrusive to ask someone about suicidal thoughts, yet doing so could save their life. Questions like “How have you been feeling?” are great conversation starters.

Try active listening, which involves not interrupting the speaker and showing genuine interest in what they have to say. It means giving one’s full attention to the other person.

While suicidal ideation is a serious issue, it does not always lead to actual suicide. This is typically a short-term reaction to an equally fleeting emotion or circumstance. A person with a suicidal purpose, however, has already settled on their decision and plans to follow through with it.

That’s a key distinction because suicidal ideation is a sign that someone needs care immediately. So it’s crucial to respond swiftly if someone indicates they want to kill themselves.

Posing the question

Inquire as to whether or not the person intends to take their own life. If that’s the case, you should inquire as to the specifics, like when and how.

Respecting their justifications

While talking to them, avoid trying to convince them that their issues aren’t that serious. Do what you can to be there for them, acknowledge how they’re feeling, and tell them that aid is available.

People often contemplate suicide when they feel helpless and see no way out of their predicament. If someone is feeling hopeless, an intervention may give them a new perspective or restore their faith in the future.

I know Halloween is a lighthearted subject to discuss, but I couldn’t help but be serious about it this year. It would be worth it to me if this helped even one person. Please, if you’re having suicidal thoughts, talk to someone. Try to take comfort in knowing that most people would prefer to hear about your problems than shed tears for your loss. If you have no one, please please contact me and I’ll do my best to listen. 

Halloween remains a joyful holiday for us, but we remain sensitive to people who are triggered by methods of suicide. 

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