It’s Suicide Awareness Month.
We see efforts across lots of media platforms designed to help us understand how pervasive this issue is and how many people suffer in often quiet desperation. Still, for those who’ve never experienced that sort of extreme despair, depression and suicide can be difficult to comprehend.
As someone who struggles with chronic clinical depression, I think this little parable captures the situation.
A person standing in the 10th -floor window of a burning building doesn’t suddenly become less afraid of falling. But when he’s certain no help is coming, when fear of the flames rises and eventually overcomes fear of falling, he jumps.
Fear of falling remains constant, but the fear of burning to death overwhelms it. Jumping is the only escape.
Likewise, a person contemplating suicide isn’t suddenly less afraid of death. But for that person, living means facing unbearable pain. If he’s certain no relief is possible and fear of the pain overwhelms fear of dying, he jumps.
Simply encouraging him not to jump is a bit like telling the guy in the building to stand and burn to death.
Helping – really helping – means acknowledging and understanding the flames that drove him to the window in the first place. Because to him those flames and the fear are very, very real.
Unless we can help extinguish the flames and diminish the fear, jumping will always seem like the only viable escape.