Unless you’ve been living under a rock, there is a good chance you’ve heard of the recent suicides of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. What you may not have heard is that just a few weeks before Spade and Bourdain ended their lives, former model and Playboy Playmate, Stephanie Adams, 47, threw herself and her seven-year-old son from a 25th floor window of a New York hotel. Then there are those that don’t make the newspaper pages.
While not a celebrity, there is the recent death of Lynnwood, WA resident, Sayon Savorn. Sayon was a 17-year-old high school football captain who lived with the mental illness Depression. Sayon’s mom attests, “…he like, lost hope.” Often, we hear survivors of suicide, wanting to make sense of their grief, say something like what Sayon’s mom did, “They lost hope.” But just what is hope?
Hope is defined as a feeling, an emotion. Hope involves feeling that what we want can be obtained. Hope convinces us that things will turn out for the best. So, are we saying that persons who die by suicide no longer sense what they are waiting on, will happen? Are we saying that they stopped believing that things will get better? Did the dark circumstances in their lives deflect any glimmer of light? For some, “Yes” is the only appropriate reply.
Years ago, Kay Warren, wife of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, explained she did not believe their son completed suicide because he had lost hope. No, Warren contended her adult son “transferred hope.” She believed the confidence Matthew once had in traditional methods to relieve his mental illness symptoms gave way to a hope he thought could only be found in death. Asking what hope is, must include thoughts on what hope requires.
Unlike wishing (to want, long for, desire), hope goes further and causes us to expect a resolution or change. Wishing wants what hope is sure will happen. Wishing may be the passive cousin to a hope that may demands action. In most cases, those who hope, take steps toward what is anticipated. This type of thinking seems to support Warren’s explanation of Matthew taking his own life.
Suicide is a very sensitive subject, even for those trained in mental health services. What has become increasingly clear is that suicide, though preventable, is a public health concern. Suicide is now recorded as one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Reported reasons for suicide include both the lack of treatment for, and the misdiagnosis of, mental health concerns. Yet, it could be argued that one’s ability to maintain an expectant hope should be considered as well.
Treatment for mental and emotional discomfort does not start and end with what can be found in a clinic or therapist’s office. To secure and maintain emotional health; proper diet, good sleep hygiene, interacting with a positive support system, and employing appropriate and realistic self-talk are essential. Wishing for ease is not the same as having faith that relief is possible.
If you are losing hope or thinking of transferring your hope, please ask for help. If the first few people you ask don’t seem to know just want to say or do… keep asking… please. Always have an expectant hope that relief is not only possible, it is also near.
For assistance to deal with suicidal thoughts and ideations, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). All calls are confidential, and the line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.