By Natasha Cameron, Ph.D., PSY —
In honor of Suicide Prevention Month, it seems necessary to discuss the impact of youth suicides on the entire community. The saying we are familiar with is ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and therefore, on the flip side, I posit that it takes a village to heal from the death of a child.
The ripples of completed suicides can be seen across all strata of our communities. Impacted most profoundly, at the center, is the immediate family left to pick up the pieces of their loved one’s world. The next layer includes people on the periphery of their life, but who interacted with them with some regularity.
Moving outward, we start to encounter folks who didn’t know the deceased personally but are still affected by their passing. When a sudden and traumatic death occurs, all of those with pre-existing or current grief-related concerns will be affected.
I say all of this because it’s essential to see the waves of impact created by a single suicide, to then understand why we cannot heal in isolation. If the entire community is impacted by the suicide, then we must also heal as an entire community. We need to be understanding about how grief might show up for someone else and try our hardest not to judge or try to evaluate someone else’s experience.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say something to the effect of “I don’t know why she is so upset, she barely knew so and so” but that is not up to us, because behind the tears and outward demonstration of grief is a teenager who contemplated killing herself the previous night; or the not outwardly grieving best friend, who is not callous and uncaring, but rather someone who got into an argument with her friend right before they killed themselves and her self-blame is now crippling.
Instead of judging, we need to find ways to continue to offer support to those around us, through access to quality mental health services, support groups, suicide prevention and postvention information, ongoing medical care, and maybe even advocacy for policy change that destigmatizes mental health services.
For those who are looking for healing or more information on suicide prevention, the Community Mental Health Hub at Hanna is hosting a free Community Healing and Engagement Night event on September 21, from 5-6:30 p.m.
Dr. Natasha Cameron is a Clinical Supervisor for the Community Mental Health Hub at Hanna