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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

When Words Will Bolster or Break

By Beth Healey
Director of Development and Marketing
You have all heard the expression, “the elephant in the room.” At the Samaritan Counseling Center, no elephant goes unnoticed—they are all talked about. After all, therapy involves a lot of talking. In fact, not talking about the elephant perpetuates what is unhealthy and problematic.
One of society’s most popular elephants in the room is the subject of suicide. Chances are very good that everyone reading this blog has in some way been affected by it. One in 17 adults and one in six teens are considering suicide at this very moment.
When I was in high school, I knew two girls who attempted suicide. Later in my life, my husband’s nephew—27 years old—unfortunately, succeeded at it. At the age of 89, my grandfather died by his own hand. Too ashamed to speak the truth, my distraught grandma told others that he had had a heart attack and that “he was a good man.” As though suicide made him a “bad man.”
Here’s another misunderstanding I’d like to put to rest. It’s been said that someone who takes his own life is selfish because he’s only thinking of himself and not about how the act will affect others who love and care about him.
Trust me—that is not the case. Pain is a powerful motivator
A person may or may not have a high tolerance for pain. Regardless of one’s tolerance level, both physical and mental pain often rise to the point of unbearable, rendering the person suffering incapable of focusing on anything else except ending the pain.
One type of pain is the pain of hopelessness. You may argue, “If a person has faith, he knows there is always hope!” But you are assuming he is capable of reasoning and understanding. Those capabilities do not exist when the pain of hopelessness is a monster with its teeth clamped into you. 
As I think about it, it becomes clearer to me why most people are uncomfortable talking about suicide, or especially, to someone who is suicidal. When you are capable of reasoning and understanding, it’s nearly impossible to imagine why anyone would want to end his life. The words, “It will get better; this too shall pass,” want to escape from our lips. Or worse yet, “It’s not that bad. Snap out of it.”
Let’s circle back to hopelessness. Based on my own experience, hopelessness is a complex and scary state of being. It is something that continues to expand and become stronger with each reinforcement. It reminds me of that old science fiction movie— “The Blob”. The Blob kept growing and growing until it was uncontrollable, till it wrapped itself around someone and swallowed him up.
These reinforcements are often born out of a deep sense of failure and worthlessness (which, by the way, are often unfounded). Some of you will call it sickness; others will call it an attack from Satan. Whatever you call it, just keep in mind that snapping out of it is akin to snapping out of the pain of any progressing disease.
A path toward healing exists. It is paved with the right words, a supportive environment, love, prayers and clinical treatment. One last nugget of wisdom: suicidal desperation doesn’t develop overnight and cannot be healed overnight. But it can be healed!
Learn more by SIGNING UP for Soul Shop™ on Wednesday, May 3 from 9a.m.-3p.m. at Crossroads: A Campus of First United Methodist Church, Butler. Early Bird Fee: $40 includes lunch; Counselors: Add $10 for 5 CEUs

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