This article comes from friend and co-worker Emily Ostrowski. Emily is a suicide prevention counselor working with an organization that helps youth dealing with suicidal ideation. I think you’ll find what she’s offered here both helpful and moving.
In Infinite Jest, renowned author David Foster Wallace, who tragically took his own life in 2008, compares suicide to a trapped person jumping out of a burning building. Wallace writes, “Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.” He goes on to note that, “Nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
That idea of the hapless bystander unable to help or understand is one I’ve struggled with ever since volunteering as a suicide prevention counselor this past April.