Years ago, I was interviewed on television news stations by reporters after someone killed themselves, especially if the individual was a teenager or younger. My background included directing a suicide prevention hotline and counseling people who were experiencing suicidal thoughts in a clinic setting.
One reporter frequently interviewed me. She was always very professional and directed her questions about what people can do to prevent suicides and how to help loved ones when a suicide occurred.
She was one of those reporters you probably have seen with her hair coiffed, perfect attire, attractive in the classical TV personality way, and always expressing a professional attitude.
Uncharacteristically after an interview on camera, she pulled me aside away from the television crew.
“I don’t understand how someone can become so distressed and depressed that they want to kill themselves. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
I shared my thoughts behind the reasons that people can become so despondent that they view suicide as their only reasonable alternative.
“I don’t think I will ever understand how someone would throw away their life when there were always alternatives and possibilities and support to help them move forward in their life.”
She described her idyllic childhood and acknowledged she was unable to relate to suicide as a means of reacting to stress.
I offered her my years of professional experience working with people who had reached their mental and emotional limits and viewed suicide as their last resort. I could tell that she was unable to relate to their desperation. She was interpreting their behavior from a more intellectual perspective.
A few months later, I was again interviewed by the same reporter after someone in the city committed suicide. She was as usual very professional and objective in her television interview questions, but I sensed something was different.
The interview took place in my backyard near a paddock where our horses lived, and she asked if we could walk around the paddock and away from the camera crew. I was curious about what she wanted to talk about. I waited patiently as we silently walked.
“I get it now. I understand how someone can reach such a level of despair that a person does not feel it’s possible to ever get past the feelings of desperation and helplessness.”
She then haltingly described a recent personal experience that shook her to the core resulting in her feeling for the first time in her life suicidal. It was an amazing transformation of this always professional person who prided herself on perfection, now privately exhibiting her vulnerability in all of her honesty and sensitivity.
I supported her moving beyond her traumatic reactions and finding ways to embrace the changes necessary so that she could move forward in a natural, grounded direction.
The next time she came to interview me about a young person who had killed herself, I noticed that her interview approach was different. There was a depth of compassion and understanding that had not been there before. Her questions had changed, and her responses, while still professional, were more personal and meaningful.
We never spoke about how she was different, and we didn’t need to have that discussion. It was a life transformed by perspective, interpretation, and compassion. Every interview with me that followed, she asked more in-depth questions, a meaningful eye connection emerging from her soul, and the partial smile that she shared with me said it all.