There is an old proverb that says if you could put your troubles in a drawstring bag, take them to the center of town and exchange them for someone else’s troubles, you would want yours back right away.
I think there is a lot of truth in that. But sometimes the load is too much for some.
Suicide has increased dramatically in the past few years. In my day job, I am involved in trying to reduce the number of fatalities due to vehicle crashes. Unfortunately, we are seeing suicide replacing car crashes as the No. 1 cause of death in some age groups. While it removes vehicle deaths from the top spot, it is not something to celebrate.
I have had several friends who have taken their own lives in the past few years. In a couple of instances, you can look back and see some warning signs. For others, it was a complete shock.
Death is the one thing we don’t handle well. We often don’t have the right words to say to someone. I was in the visitation line at a funeral home not too long ago. The bereaved person was standing there at the head of their mother’s casket.
“I know what you’re going through,” said the person ahead of me. “We lost our little puppy last week.”
I love animals and have two little dogs at home that often brighten my day when they compete for my attention. There is no comparison between the life of your dog and the life of someone’s mama. We are talking about a person who carried someone for nine months, wiped their nose and changed their diapers, made sure they were fed and clothed and saw that they got an education. Dogs don’t do that.
We especially don’t have good words when someone decides to end their life.
“I wish they had Jesus,” someone said. Folks, there are people who love Jesus and publicly professed their faith in him, but found themselves drowning in troubles that seemed insurmountable.
Then there are those who want to use the Bible to tell us that committing suicide is an automatic ticket to hell. This is not supported by the Bible.
We are often taken aback by the suicidal death of a celebrity. Clearly, we can assume that fame, wealth and career success is not the key to happiness. But today’s celebrity-driven news cycle is fed by our insatiable appetite for juicy tidbits as to why someone would do this and how it was accomplished.
When I was in the newspaper business, we shied away from stories about suicide, unless it involved a public figure or happened in a public venue.
Today, the only clue you get about someone committing suicide is in their funeral home obituary. If you see a relatively young person has died and the cause is attributed to “a sudden Illness,” it is a sign that they ended their own life.
If you see signs of depression in someone you know or love, offer encouragement. Offer to listen, without judgment. That may be what the person is needing. There are also professionals who are a phone call away. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear Sunday.