The news reported recently that another celebrity, model Annalise Braakensiek, has committed suicide. This is on the back of the high profile suicide deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain last year.
These famous deaths serve to highlight the awful and distressing matter of suicide in our societies. Indeed, Lifeline reports that in Australia there are eight deaths per day attributable to suicide. Eight deaths per day, what a monumental statistic!
It is often stated that people who suicide have a ‘mental illness’ but the term ‘mental illness’ camouflages the truth about what is going on. It makes it sound as if there was a disease that made these people do what they did when actually they were having trouble dealing with matters that we all have to face. These are matters of the heart, of meaning, of grief and despair.
How different would it be if we said that someone was so broken hearted that they couldn’t keep going and ended their own life. We could all relate to that.
There is a broken-heartedness and an emptiness at the root of suicidal thoughts, a broken-heartedness about life, about the self and about an emptiness within. No amount of fame, glamour, success or wealth can keep us insulated from such feelings. They are deeper and related to the core of what we truly need in order to make life worthwhile.
Life is actually about love. And we all need to be connected with this love. And the source of this love is within us. Disconnect from this and we feel empty within. Disconnect from this and we get battered by the sad, terrible or shocking things that can happen in our lives and in the world.
And so what do we do to make sure a broken heart doesn’t get the better of us?
- Start young – teach children how to connect within themselves and how to manage their own emotional states.
- Start small – work in any small way towards creating a kinder culture that values sweetness and sensitivity and encourages us all to be gentler and more compassionate with ourselves and others so that we feel at home in the world not at its mercy.
- Start connecting – we have to regularly connect, truly connect, with ourselves and with others. Just talk (not text!) and just listen. Ask each other (and ourselves): What challenges are you facing at present? How are you feeling about it all? How are you coping? What support do you need? What is there to appreciate around you and within you?
Just as we commit to reducing the road toll by taking action, shouldn’t we also be committing to taking action to reduce deaths by suicide? And we don’t need the police or the law to make this happen. It’s in our own hands every day in small ways, in small moments. Make them count. Because life counts. And love heals. Always. For everyone of us.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide call Lifeline immediately on 13 11 14
About the author: Cynthia is a Melbourne-based Psychologist working in private practice and author of the book Return to the Soul – Making the Ancient Wisdom of the Soul Accessible for Everyday Life.