This blog post is part of the Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.
It was a complete shock when my brother committed suicide in 2012. My mind was filled with so many questions that I desperately wanted answers to: Why had he done it? What had I missed? What could I have done?
With these questions continually cycling through my brain, I did what I usually do when faced with something I don’t understand: I read everything I could about it.
Why Do People Commit Suicide
Unfortunately, the research didn’t point to one single explanation as to why people commit suicide (wouldn’t that have been nice—then we could prevent all suicide!). Instead, it offered multiple theories.
One that stayed with me, and seemed to best reflect how I perceived my brother’s situation at the time of his death, stated something along these lines: many people feel sad or depressed, or disconnected from family and friends, or without hope that their circumstances will change for the better in the future.
The thing to watch out for is when all these beliefs and emotions happen at the same time. That is when the pain is so intense that the risk of suicide increases (this doesn’t mean it is inevitable, only that there is a greater chance that it could be the outcome).
Money, unfortunately, can intersect with each of these aspects of our lives. If you are having money troubles, for example, it may make you anxious or sad or even scared. My brother, I found out later, was on the verge of losing his house to foreclosure when he died.
Money can also obviously affect your relationships. Growing up, my parents fought a lot about money and I think because of that, we never learned how to talk about it or manage it, or to understand what its function should be (and by that I mean that we should have viewed it as a tool for creating a successful life, not an indicator that we were a success or a failure in life).
Finally, money troubles can contribute to feeling hopeless about the future. You may not see a path to a better paying job or a time when you can fully retire, which could color how you anticipate your future.
My brother was having some health issues which were likely going to affect his ability to continue working in his factory job. Combine that with a jerk of a boss and yet another failed job hunt and it likely made it hard for him to see how he would be able to improve his circumstances.
[I am going to pause here to say that none of those things mattered to me then or now and if you see yourself in the picture I am painting of my brother then you probably have loved ones who feel as I do. Seek them out and let them know you are struggling. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.]
Given that money can cast such a large shadow, it is critical to maintain a healthy attitude about its role in our lives. Here are three suggestions that may help.
You Are Not What You Earn
Don’t associate who you are with what you earn or what you own. I am not going to tell you that money doesn’t matter at all but it certainly isn’t the only thing that matters. Joy can be found in so many things that have nothing to do with your job title, your address or the type of car you drive. My brother was a good and goofy person and those attributes cost nothing (and yet were priceless).
People In Your Life Don’t Value You for Your Money
If you don’t have people in your life who value you for things other than your money—and given my own experience with my brother I think that is unlikely—then find new people to hang out with. I know it can get harder to make friends and develop positive relationships as we get older and aren’t thrown into situations that naturally lend themselves to meeting people (like the first day of school) but it is possible.
You can check out meet-ups in your areas focused on things you like to do, volunteer, or join a church or civic group. You may not meet your new best friend but maybe you will.
Be willing to accept help. I had to learn this lesson myself after my brother died. I have always been a very independent person but his death just completely knocked me down. Fortunately, I found the courage to let my friends help me, and to seek out a support group for survivors of suicide (I write more about healing after his death here: I Hate Birthdays—But Not Because They Mean I am a Year Older).
And when I say I “found the courage” I am not exaggerating: accepting help required a lot more bravery than hiding in the corner and trying to go it alone.
I hope that by sharing my experience with my brother I can help others who are feeling overwhelmed by the situation they are in, or the family members or friends who are concerned about someone they care about.
I don’t believe I will ever know what all brought my brother to conclude that suicide was the only answer. I can speculate—and did so endlessly in the days, weeks, months, and even years after he died—but inevitably none of the reasons I identify seem to me so big that either separately or together they point to suicide as a rational response.
If you have gotten to a point where you feel suicide is your only option, PLEASE contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and tell a loved one who can ensure you get connected to the resources you need. Your life has meaning and there is hope.