Hi, my name is Lou Koon. I suspect that you clicked in because the title got your attention. Suicide Makes Sense. It may seem a rather odd inaugural post for a new website on suicide prevention, especially for the faith community. Perhaps you have a friend or family member that you are worried may be having thoughts of suicide. You may be reading because at this very moment you are having thoughts of suicide.
Those who know me and what I do may be wondering why I would make such a preposterous statement as “Suicide Makes Sense.” It goes against everything I said I believe. So, in the next few minutes I hope to shed some light on what I mean and even the idea that the statement itself does make sense.
For the past 12 years I have been a student of suicidology. Suicidology is simply the study of suicidal behavior and its causes. My study began when I myself was in a very low place thinking that suicide was the only option. It is a journey that led to the founding of Armed Forces Mission, a non-profit veteran organization where I have conducted more than 1,600 suicide interventions. More than 22,000 individuals nationwide have participated in my workshops on suicide prevention and intervention. Teachers, law enforcement, faith, and civic groups as well as hospitals and the US Army and Air Force have participated in the Intervene Challenge a five-hour training to gain the skills that save lives.
In 2016 I was honored to be the Trinity Awards Emergency Responder of the Year, and 2018 I was the sole inductee into the Alumni Hall of Fame at the University of North Georgia. I share these accolades simply to convey that I have given a lot of thought to the subject of suicide. Additionally, I would never make such a bold statement as “SUICIDE MAKES SENSE” without first giving thought to how it would be perceived and what impact such statement might have.
Ironically, I work with survivors every week that are struggling to make sense of the suicide of a friend or family member. Sometimes, when people die by suicide, we can make at least some sense of why it happened. Other times we are caught completely unaware. We make such statements as, “He had so much to live for or how could she do this to her children and family?”
My second preposterous statement is this - In all my work with individuals at risk I have never met anyone that really wanted to die. Suicide is not the result of wanting to die. It is the result of loss that overwhelms one’s coping abilities to the point that suicidal thoughts take root in the mind. The loss can be anything that changed the personal world of the person that died. The loss of a relationship from death or divorce, the loss of a job, the loss health, the loss of integrity. Any type of loss can put a person at risk. It may even be the loss that comes from what others might view as good things. Retirement comes to mind or rising up the corporate ladder to a level that is higher than one’s actual abilities.
Hopelessness brought on by loss can lead to the thought that SUICIDE MAKES SENSE. We also begin to understand that it is not as preposterous as it may sound. Proverbs 29:18 states, "without vision people perish." When we lose sight of a better tomorrow, there is no vision for hope. Think of it this way. Have you ever had a dream that made sense when you were having it, but the moment you woke it no longer made sense? One night, just recently I dreamed that I was playing the guitar and penned what would be the next Country platinum song. I just knew that Alan Jackson would want to record it. When I woke and started singing it my wife called me out on it. It was then that I was very much aware that I would not make it in Nashville, not with that song anyway. But in my dream, it was great. It made sense.
In the same way that we have dreams that make sense while dreaming them, suicide can make sense consciously and subconsciously, especially when we keep such thoughts to ourselves. Unfortunately, many people at risk of suicide never get called out on their thoughts, because no one ever asks them about such thoughts. From my own experience, when my oldest son asked me if I was having thoughts of suicide, in that very moment it did not make as much sense as I thought it did. I also began to realize that I was not alone…that someone cared. The asking about the thoughts of suicide was the starting point for installation of renewed hope. When I heard another voice asking me about the thoughts in my head, the thoughts in my head no longer made sense.
In my work with individuals at risk I always directly ask, “Have you had thoughts of suicide?” Without fail they look me in the eye, often for the first time. It is as if I have reached down into their hurting soul and touched upon what no one else had been willing to do. I can almost see the proverbial “idea light bulb” lighting up in their mind. Suicide is just a thought. Just as a dream is just a dream. As human beings we have many thoughts that we never act upon. It is possible to treat the thought of suicide the same way.
From my own experience and the work of thousands of others like me, I know that intervention saves lives. Trained people save people. Every week I get calls from one or two of the thousands we have trained sharing that they were able to save a life. In a recent survey of individuals that have taken our suicide intervention course 53% of respondents said that they had done an intervention since the training. Many respondents have done dozens. I wish the number were higher, as 98% of the respondents said they are more likely to ask the suicide question. So there is somewhat of a disconnect between 53 and 98. The reality is that if you have ten friends one of them is having thoughts of suicide at this moment. Thus if we are 98% more likely to ask the question there should be far more interventions taking place. Yes suicide does make sense, but the fact that we are not doing more interventions does not make sense in my mind. I have worked with many people and can certainly understand why they would have thoughts of suicide. Now days it is not the thoughts of suicide that surprise me in others, but it is their resilience. The other surprise is why we would not ask the suicide question if we thought a person was thinking of suicide. That doesn't make sense.
If you are having thoughts of suicide at this moment, please reach out to a caring friend or counselor. Get the help to rediscover that life is the better option. You can also call the national crisis line at 1-800-2273-TALK (8255).
To learn more on how you can help those at risk order my book Listen Learn Lead. It is the primary curriculum I use in the Intervene Challenge and the 1 Reason 2 Live Conference.