Can suicide be prevented?

Butterfly release at SPAN-GA Walk in Newnan, 9/10/16. Photo by Maggie Barrett.

It always disturbs me when I see well-meaning suicide prevention advocates make statements such as, “Suicide is 100% preventable.” Why? Because it simply isn’t true.

I get it. I used to be one of those people too. When I’d read of someone who had killed themselves I’d say things like, “Why didn’t they get the help they needed? Where were their families?”

Here is the truth: Many suicides are preventable. There is no doubt about that. However, sometimes a person can have all the best treatments: the latest and greatest meds; in-patient and/or out-patient treatment (or a combination thereof); electroconvulsive therapy; as well as a great support team at home. And it can still happen.

Up to 10% of major depression sufferers do not respond to treatment. That isn’t to say that we should give up on them. We need to be ever-vigilant with those at risk. But we also need to be careful not to assign blame to anybody when suicide does happen.

Making unqualified statements is a disservice to survivors of suicide. Grieving the suicide of a loved one is like walking through a land mine – the second guessing, the regrets. I’ve been there. In the months following my mother’s suicide, I followed every alternate path trying to come up with a different ending, but I kept coming back to this: Unless you put someone in a straight jacket, lock them up, and force feed them intravenously, there are no guarantees.

To survivors of suicide – I think I have a somewhat unique perspective as my mother was conscious for almost 24 hours after she fatally injured herself and was able to share a few things, most importantly this: It isn’t your fault.

6 responses to “Can suicide be prevented?”

  1. Good article. And timely. I assume you heard about the student at Starr’s Mill?


    Minka Fulton 678-438-7042



    1. I started a draft on Friday. Then I heard this morning about the student and knew I had to finish it up and get it published during my lunch hour.


  2. I totally agree with you. I believe some people are going to commit suicide no matter what. Of course we never really know who so we have to be vigilant for the ones who seem at risk. I had a friend that committed suicide and I tried everything I could to help him. I always thought he would do it though and he did. It is no one’s fault. It is just a very sad thing. I think one thing that makes me the saddest is that the person is so sad, depressed, or hopeless to actually do the act. That always makes me sad, especially if it is a young person. I am sorry about your mother!


    1. Yes, it is very sad…thanks for reading.


  3. Thanks Jill I concur. Hope you are doing well.


    1. Doing great. Thanks for the work you do.


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