A Difficult Discussion on Trauma

Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain. Avicii. Tyler Honeycutt. You may or may not recognize these names and you may or may not see the connection between them.

Each one is a celebrity, but all have something much greater in common. All these people have committed suicide this year.

Suicide is a difficult subject for many and rightfully so. It is hard to understand how a person could take their own life. Family and friends are left broken, wondering what more they could have done to help this person they so loved.

As with all loss, family and friends begin to experience a certain amount of anger toward the person they have lost and at themselves. There is anger in the unknown and to subdue this anger, many begin searching for answers. Often, that answer becomes mental health. The conclusion is made that the person who committed suicide had to be dealing with a great deal of mental health struggles to do what is considered unthinkable and unspeakable to many.

It is true that mental health is severely misunderstood, and it is true that mental health is often a part of someone’s ultimate decision to commit suicide. There is also no denying that suicide hurts many people. But as advocates, we are reminded by our survivors who have struggled with thoughts of suicide that there is another factor that is less talked about. In our line of work, we learn that a person who is contemplating suicide has experienced a great deal of trauma.

“Trauma is a psychological reaction to harmful or life-threatening occurrence that is outside the range of normal experience and beyond control.” (MCES, 2018) We have all experienced trauma at some point in our lives. We may have experienced trauma when losing a loved one or when losing our home during a natural disaster. Maybe we experienced trauma after an accident or after a serious health scare.

For our survivors, they’ve experienced trauma in the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse they’ve endured.

Studies show a correlation between trauma and suicidal ideation. In fact, it has been shown childhood maltreatment (physical, sexual, and emotional abuse amongst children) is a predictor of suicidal ideation. (NCBI, 2016) Other traumatic events are also indicators of suicidal ideation. Among veterans, military sexual trauma can increase the risk for suicidal ideation and intentional self-harm. (National Center for PTSD, 2018) A Reuters Health article stated that, “Both LGBQ sexual identity and traumatic experiences in childhood are linked to a heightened risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, U.S. researchers say.” (Reuters, 2017)

What if we were to examine the following common statements made after someone commits suicide. Would you agree or disagree?

“Suicide is selfish.”

“Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.”

“Suicide doesn’t take the pain away, it gives it to someone else.”

Now what if we were to look at those phrases from another perspective? What if we were to replace the word “suicide” with the word “trauma”?

“Trauma is selfish.”

“Trauma is a permanent solution to temporary problems.”

“Trauma doesn’t take the pain away, it gives it to someone else.”

Would you still agree or disagree with those statements?

We cannot ever fully know or understand the factors that have led to someone making the decision to end their own life just as we cannot ever fully understand the trauma that a person has experienced in their lifetime. But know that we do understand trauma and suicidal thoughts are difficult to deal with. You are not alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with trauma and thoughts of suicide, please give us a call. We are here to listen, and we are here to support you 24/7.