After her son’s suicide Judy Collins read My Son, My Son, A Guide to Healing After a Suicide in the Family by Iris Bolton.
“Iris is one of the people who called me after my son’s death,” she said. “Joan Rivers [whom Judy didn’t know at the time] called me about four days after Clark’s death and said, ‘First of all, there is no guilt in suicide and secondly, you cannot quit working.’”
“That’s what people do, they decide to opt out,”Collins said . “Joan said, ‘You can’t do that, you won’t heal, you won’t find whatever it is you are supposed to learn because of this, you’ll just shut down.’”
To disappear was exactly what Collins wanted to do but she knew she had work to do.
“I’m a political creature and activist and I knew this is an area where you had to be an activist,” she said. “What better opportunity! They say life presents to you all the problems you are supposed to learn something about.”
To quote from her book: “God will not take me to a place where I cannot find meaning where I cannot be of service.”
If you have suicidal thoughts or attempts, Collins said the first step is to check yourself into a hospital where you will be safe, surrounded by knowledgeable people who are caring and who will talk to you. Or, call a hotline and find out what’s available in your community.
“For me there’s only one answer: talk about it,” she said. “My suicide attempt was never, ever mentioned in our home, but I’ve had a lot of therapy for years and years and years. I’ve worked on my dreams, I’ve worked with people who thought that finding the solution to my problems would cure my alcoholism.”
Nothing worked until she got treatment for alcoholism.
“I believe that treatment works, and for most of us that’s about the only answer,” she said. “Change the whole dynamic of behavior and life habits and find a way to displace the default position of negativity.”
Every suicide affects at least 10 people; most Americans know someone who has attempted or accomplished suicide.
Collins suggests the best way to help someone is to stay positive and believe that they are capable, encourage them to get professional help.
“You can’t change somebody’s behavior just because you talked to them, I can’t tell anybody what to do, I don’t know what’s best for them,” she explained. “But I do know that somebody else might know what’s best for them and maybe I can push them in that direction. Some people have to go through terrible things to find out what it’s all about.”
How have you been affected by suicide? What are your thoughts on the negative language and attitudes surrounding suicide? How can we change the stigma of suicide?