Someone’s gone missing, turned up in a hospital or worse yet is just suddenly and impossibly gone. How often do we hear the stories about what’s to blame, hear the gossip about what drives people to their lowest extremes? How often do we encounter despair turned into a joke, like Monty Python’s squad of unknowns who appear and disappear in an instant? Some people prefer to laugh off suicide; some to turn it into romanticized stories about a person’s imagined feelings. I think both strategies tend to avoid the underlying truth of our own roles in the situation, for we can make or break others without even seeing it.
The problems are real. To an outsider they will almost always appear exaggerated and may even look like trivial matters. But everyone suffering enough to consider a violent end to life is facing real and terrible pain. And everyone who has felt such pain loathes how glibly anyone who hasn’t can talk about it. I believe I live among considerate people who would not want to hurt anyone else so badly, but frequently our unconscious behaviors are the contributing factors that make a difference.
In the depths of despair, someone suicidal may often feel betrayed by their closest companions and blame their behaviors. If something does go wrong, we are the friends and acquaintances who will likely blame ourselves. It feels like there is plenty of blame to go around. This blame is unhealthy when it is something we cannot change and unhelpful if we can change it. Why should you ever feel guilty for who you are? Do not blame appear- ance, experience, or doing
your best in school and competition. If we should blame anything, it is the chosen behavior we can still change.
These are some of the problems I see and have experienced: Indifference to what matters to someone else. Insensitively competitive natures and a need to win. One-sided conversations. And humor is perhaps the most risky – a poorly made joke turns an audience into the butt of the joke. It can feel natural to include these in our lives. Humor is es- sential to the conversations of many people and athletics come already closely paired with competition. But mind- fulness of what we do shapes how we act, and best of all, it isn’t hard to leave with a positive impact.
Remember your friends’ birthdays, especially without social website reminders. Participate in Friday Flowers, or just leave letters or messages any time. Pace yourself so that you can both listen and share in conversation, and listen with the goal of understanding how the other person feels. Spare the several texts and minutes it takes to walk to the next building to say hi. Tell the important people in your life why they mean something to you, and don’t feel awkward about it! None of these suggestions needs to take any more than a few minutes. Your investment of a few short minutes can turn around a day, a week, and sometimes a life. The people we care about are worth that, worth every little change we make to show each other it’s all ok. We do not need to change ourselves or our behavior, but a little reframing can really bring out the best.