Is Suicide 100% Preventable?

The awareness campaigns have good hearts, they are filled with messages of hope and positivity, their aim is to remind people that they can always choose life! But when they proclaim that suicide is 100% preventable, they are sending a message that I feel is not only inaccurate, but one that could potentially cause a lot of emotional harm to the surviving friends and families.

If we want to be painfully technical then yes suicide may be 100% preventable, but for no reason other than the suicidal person can decide not to do it. You may disagree with me, “of course it is preventable” I hear you say, “we just need to look for the warning signs, we need to ask people if they are okay, we need to provide them with helplines and good access to mental health care!” While awareness is extremely important and those are all wonderful ways to help people, my main problem with the thought process behind it, is the fact that when interventions are unsuccessful, grieving families are left behind blaming themselves for not saving their loved one from a “100% preventable” death.

One of the most important lessons we can learn as human beings is that yes, we can absolutely influence our environment and the people around us, but the only thing we can completely control is ourselves and our own actions and reactions to situations. Implying that it is possible to prevent another persons suicide, ALL the time, 100% of the time, is putting an unjust amount of responsibility, pressure and blame onto those left behind.

People miss ‘red flags’ all the time, some seem so obvious in hindsight, but such is the nature of hindsight. Often though, the warning signs are much more subtle. The fact of the matter is we are human beings, not mind readers and we simply have to accept what we are being told, and many, many suicidal people lie about how they are feeling. Sometimes even when the warning signs are recognised, when professional help has been sought, despite therapies and medications and lifestyle changes, in the end the final decision lies with the suicidal person, I should know, it happened to me.

I was actually hospitalised in a psychiatric unit sectioned involuntarily under the mental health act the night I reached the rock bottom of my 2015 Bipolar depressive episode and took the overdose that nearly ended my life. There I was, in a safe place, surrounded by trained mental health professionals that wanted to help me, and yet I was still intent on and able to attempt suicide. Now people that hear this story tend to jump in and play the ‘blame game’ at this point, I’m quite sure my family did when they first found out I was in a coma in ICU.

Where was the hospital in all of this? You might ask, wasn’t I supposed to be in their care? I was clearly unwell and deemed enough of a risk to myself that the state had decided to involuntarily detain me, so how on earth had I managed to acquire enough tablets to overdose so spectacularly and why didn’t anyone notice and stop me?

But you see, even though I was definitely unwell and yes, in the hospital’s care, there was nothing they could have done differently at the time to prevent this outcome. When it came down to it, the decision to end my life was entirely my own and I had in many ways made it long before going to hospital, long enough to research and plan a foolproof method of smuggling a fatal dose of prescription medication past the extensive security measures and onto a locked ward and then have it prepared and ready to go ‘just in case’ I was ever sectioned and wanted to die. I was also then sneaky enough to perfect my timing of taking it around the regular room checks as not to arouse suspicion. Although, had I died that night, a court of law may have found I was not of sound mind and thus not legally accountable for my own actions, the fact of the matter is, my suicide attempt was not 100% preventable, it was absolutely suicide in the 1st degree and the only person who would have ever been able to prevent it, was myself. It was purely luck that a nurse stuck her head in my door when she had to unexpectedly check on a different patient who had cried out and happened to find me unconscious just as my breathing began to cease that I am even here to tell this tale.

So, I believe that leaving the grief stricken loved ones of suicide victims with the message that absolutely all suicides are preventable only serves to leave them with terrible feelings of guilt, lamenting over what they ‘could’ve, should’ve, would’ve’ done better when in reality, the outcome was not their control.

While suicide might not be 100% preventable it is still very preventable; and it is absolutely something that as a community we can help to reduce. We can do this by teaching our children and peers the importance of good mental health and how to achieve and maintain it, continuing to raise awareness of mental illness thus reducing the attached stigma, we can quietly or loudly spread the message that during a crisis in one form or another help is always available and most importantly, within our capacity to safely do so, we can be there for family and friends who are struggling, to help out a bit or just listen in a loving and non-judgmental way.

Do you feel suicide is 100% preventable?

19 Comments on “Is Suicide 100% Preventable?

  1. This is insightful and beautiful.

    I think once it gets to the point of being a plan instead of a thought, it’s not preventable.

    It’s everything leading up to it that is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you 🙂 I agree, plans change things. This comment really made me think, there is quite a big difference between ‘having a plan’ and ‘plotting’ suicide too… Sorry, I’m half in my head here, I was just connecting the way I have had a tendency to self sabotage in the past and have had several ‘plans’ on the go at once as a way to encourage myself and make it easy to follow through in any situation ‘just in case’ I suddenly became desperately suicidal (yes, I am aware of how ridiculous that sounds!). They probably were more ‘plots’ than ‘active plans’ as they would have been relying on a particular situation happening to be carried out, but once one of those situations occurred – i.e. that hospitalisation – then they immediately became an active plan *sigh*.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sorry, love. I agree with you, and it doesn’t sound ridiculous. I’ve been at the point where I’ve strongly considered it because I couldn’t see another option, but never to the point where I’ve gotten my affairs in order, picked a method, written a letter, etc. I think for me that would be the point of no return.

        At the end of the day, we need to wake up. We need to re-evaluate how we treat each other, and how we treat ourselves. We can make a difference and nip it in the bud while it IS preventable. 🖤

        Liked by 1 person

        • I guess I got to that point early on – my affairs have been in order, letters to everyone I love repeatedly written and revised, but the while depressions always became replaced with hypomania’s they always came back again, so I got to a point where I just kept stuff in a box ‘ready to go’ and made all the letters personalised but generic enough to still be accurate for the time when I finally went through with it. (Efficiency? lol) Even though right now I feel the least suicidal I probably ever have, I can’t quite bring myself to tear up all those letters!
          And yes, we really do need to focus on early intervention and more emphasis on holistic health throughout school too.

          Like

  2. Oh my … What a post. That was beautifully written. I am so very, very sorry you have been through such inexplicably troubled times and I truly hope that now everything has turned round for you. In answer to your question, no of course it’s not 100% preventable and frankly what a ridiculous claim they make. That implies that every person with every and any form of depression can be watched 100% of the time! Of course they can’t. If someone wants to do it, they will find a way. And it’s not of course just those under the radar and who have been hospitalised who need to be watched. It’s the millions of others. I think it’s only going to make families even more filled with guilt if they honestly believe that it need not have happened, that it could have been prevented. My darling mother died of cancer three years ago and now there is talk of a new way to prevent the type that she had, and whilst I am so unbelievably happy that millions of people can now be helped, the feeling of pain, hurt and grief that had this been produced earlier so as to have helped my mother and prevented her death is hellish. So a mix of emotions, but my point is that when grief is so intense, if one is later told that it could have been prevented by whatever reason, it simply intensifies the emotions 100 fold. You write so beautifully and I loved reading you post even though it was so terribly sad but most importantly, I genuinely hope that things are now good for you my friend. Katie x

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry your mother passed, cancer is so horribly unfair.
      Guilt is such a hard emotion to reconcile, it serves us to realise what we have done that we could perhaps do better in the future, but when it crosses from guilt into unnecessary shame (as it so often does) and we simply feel we are the mistake rather than we simply made a mistake and while hindsight is an important gift to learn from for the future, we cannot let it make us blind to the fact that we cannot change the past.
      xx Kate

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re absolutely spot on. I’d never thought about the guilt turning into shame, but it does. My God it does. Thank you for a great post, it really made me think and that’s what I love most. Katie. Xx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I don’t believe that suicide is 100pct preventable as when we are suffering from a severe disorder we can act irrationally while we are going through a bad episode of desperation or others whether we are well surrounded or not. We are too unpredictable by nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    • While reducing the stigma is an uphill battle, we are still making progress. We need to target more help towards people who may be starting to experience mental illness with a big emphasis on encouraging those that feel like they may be affected to want to seek help EARLY on, prevention is far better than cure of course.
      Then providing decent follow up care after crisis and better crisis prevention… So basically we need billions and billions of dollars.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. People are clever apes. When we set our mind on something we each would find a unique way to carry it out. In my cases, suicide was a very deliberate, determined, action. Once my mind was set on the plan, there was nothing that was going to stop me. By the time I was researching methods, there was nothing that was going to stop me. When I got to the point of thinking death by suicide was a good/viable choice, there was very little that would stop me. Before that I would have said 100 times out of 100 that suicide was not an option.

    Depression is an insidious illness that moves into the driver’s seat so smoothly and easily that we’re often not aware the change has happened. Hugs to you Kate.

    Liked by 1 person

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