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.