How often do you hear people say “Why didn’t they just reach out?” when a person dies by suicide.
I mean, I get it, I do. I’m a huge advocate of talking about your mental health and asking for help but when people say “Why didn’t they just reach out?” I feel like I’m about to burst into flames.
You might be thinking, what’s the issue with saying that?
First of all, not every person who is suicidal feels like they can reach out.
Living in the darkest moments of your mental illness takes more energy than can ever be explained, it is consuming. Sometimes just getting out of bed or getting dressed becomes your biggest achievement of the week and everything else just falls lower down on your list of priorities.
Telling people to reach out is expecting too much from them at a time when even the most basic of daily tasks are challenging.
It’s already hard enough to ask for help when you are stigmatised by society and feel shame and embarrassment about your mental health.
If you genuinely want to help someone, you need to be the one to reach out.
If you notice that your friend has suddenly stopped venturing out, has taken a lot of time off work or isn’t as chatty as they normally are, then talk to them about it.
If you notice them posting some dark stuff on their social media, talk to them about it.
Don’t put the burden of asking for help on them. It’s up to you as a friend to reach out.
And secondly, other than asking “Why didn’t they just reach out?” being nothing short of victim blaming, it also assumes that a person who died by suicide or has attempted suicide didn’t already reach out.
Because high chances are, they already did.
In the UK one in 10 patients are waiting for more than a year just to be assessed for treatment, and one in 6 make an attempt on their life while on a waiting list (Source).
People are quite literally not getting the help they desperately need, even when they ASK for it.
So you see, telling people to reach out just isn’t enough.