Suicide Always has Warning Signs

I was recently informed about this very sad, very moving and very informational video concerning the suicide of a prominent NFL hero, a man named Junior Seau. In the video Marcellus Wiley, a former teammate to Seau, is reacting to the loss of his friend in a raw, beautiful and poignant reflection of some of the last times they spent together. Yet unwittingly in his grief he is reflecting the fear surrounding suicide as so many of us do by denying and rejecting the warning signs when they appear.

About 3 minutes into the interview Mr. Wiley speaks to a previous suicide attempt by his friend in 2010, a time when Seau drove his SUV off a cliff. In the interview Mr. Wiley states that when he contacted Seau after the “accident” he begged him to tell him that he just fell asleep, “tell me, man, please tell me you just fell asleep at the wheel”. As raw and real as this plea is, it is also unfortunately completely the opposite of what a suicidal person needs.

Someone contemplating suicide does not need enabling, denial, avoidance. What they need is brutal confrontation, truth. I wonder what might have been different if instead he had said, “Man, suicide is no answer. Thanks for almost ripping my heart out. In no way will I let this slide by. We’re going to get help and get it right now” or something along those lines.

I know that most people fear suicide. They worry that if you talk to the “fragile” person about it you might make it worse or trigger their successful attempt and nobody wants to be the trigger, the last person who spoke to the troubled one. But in all reality the exact opposite is true. A suicide attempt is a bright white hot spotlight call for help. The person is screaming for attention, to be told how much pain and suffering would be felt by their death, to treat death as the enemy and to gather forces to rally around the pain or hopelessness that the suffering person is experiencing.

Suicide is never an option. It only leaves pain and destruction, guilt and sadness behind. It also unfortunately creates a legacy of future suicide. When suicide is a part of any family story, it kind of opens the door of acceptance for future generations by de-stigmatizing it just enough to make it less fearful, mildly more acceptable. This is not a legacy we want to leave behind. Therefore rule #1 in dealing with suicide is to face it head on, to confront it and to evict it as an option.

In the interview, Mr. Wiley goes on and reveals how, in hindsight, maybe his friend did have warning signs. But he didn’t see them as warning signs, at least not back then. Maybe Mr. Seau’s tragic loss will bring a thread of learning and hope for others.

Suicide ALWAYS has warning signs. And there is ALWAYS help.

National Suicide Hotlines USA
Toll-Free / 24 hours a day / 7 days a week
1-800-SUICIDE      1-800-273-TALK
1-800-784-2433     1-800-273-8255

1-888-628-9454 Spanish

Deaf Hotline 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)

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3 Responses to Suicide Always has Warning Signs

  1. Kerri Hicks says:

    I agree with a lot of your points, but not one of them… there are not always warning signs. Some people don’t show signs because they genuinely don’t want “help”. They may not connect well with others, our they may simply be resigned to the “fact” (in their minds) that suicide is the best, or only option. I think saying that there are always signs can compound the undeserved guilt that many who are left behind feel. Sometimes, there are no signs. Often there are. Often there is that covert (or overt) cry for help. But sometimes it’s a quiet resignation and there’s no warning at all.

  2. Sage Therapy says:

    Indeed, suicide is a very painful tragedy both for the family and the person who committed it. I agree when you said that when a person tries to commit suicide, this is really because he wants to be helped, but either no one is there to do so or he just can’t simply say it out loud. Either way, I hope it will never be too late for that person. Thank you for sharing such significant information. I hope that whoever sees these suicidal signs present in a person, they will try do remember the things you said in this article. Keep it up!

  3. Maybe the idea of “signs” I should elaborate on. They aren’t always as obvious as one may hope for, they can be quiet subtle changes in a person and they might be quick, too. Maybe the lack of time is one unspoken barrier to the problem. It’s often about trusting the small gut instinct voice and not rationalizing or minmizing it, as our society is so often eager to do. Suicide has so much arms-length reaction that small signs may go unrecognized. It’s a scary topic for sure and there’s no guarantee that intervention will stop someone who is committed to the goal. But we must try.

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