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  • Writer's pictureYvette E. McDonald, LCSW-QS

Suicide Survivor: Unpacking Suicide

It's a senario that you never would have imagined yourself in. A chapter being written into your life without your knowledge, understanding, approval or warning. Someone you love or know has died by suicide. Your mind and heart are going a mile a minute as you try to ground yourself into this new reality. Your body is in shock, your mind in confusion, denial and wrestling with the Why?, and your emotions on a roller coaster. And as your mind races, attempts to process this new reality and questions flood your mind people more times than not begin to question what suicide is. A valid question and it helps to know something about the breadth and depth of suicide.

Some facts about suicide:

Suicide remains a tremendously stigmatized, under-reported, and poorly understood cause of death - yet these numbers make clear that it is a major public health problem in America (Jack Jordan & Bob Baugher). For more information about the epidemiology of suicide in the United States check out:

What Causes Suicide?

In their book "After Suicide Loss: Coping with your grief;" By Jack Jordan, Ph.D. and Bob Baugher, Ph.D. they describe the cause for suicide as the "Perfect Storm". "A complex combination of biological, psychological, social, and situational factors that combine in just the wrong way to create the conditions that allow suicide to happen." They then continue to unpack suicide explaining some of the factors:

  • Psychiatric Disorder: "There is abundant evidence that psychiatric disorders themselves are the result of a complex mixture of neurobiological (i.e., brain) dysregulation, psychological stress, and maladaptive coping efforts. One way to think of suicide is that it is the last stage of a psychiatric disorder for some (but not most people). Another way to say this is: people can literally die of depression or bipolar disorder in the same way they can die of heart disease or cancer."

  • State of Mind: Research has demonstrated that a major component of suicidal thinking is a sense of hopelessness. The person may feel unloveable, feelings of rejection, helpless and a burden to others. There's also personality traits such as impulsivity or their reaction style that is typically depressive in nature, along with life getting really heavy all at once, creating a lethal mix of agitation, desperation, hopelessness, helplessness, and powerlessness.

  • Stressors: Stressful events can increase the risk of suicide. Everything from a loss in relationship, death of a loved one, a role change, status change, becoming unemployed, divorce, financial difficulties, poor life choices, difficult marriage or work environment, bullying, recent loss, etc.

  • Social Factors: The interactions or lack there of we have with people. Stigmatization, social isolation, physically, sexually or emotionally abused are just some of the social factors that contribute to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

  • Situational Factors: Access to the weapon of choice, and/or exposure to the suicide of another person.

Can Suicide Be Prevented?

I'm sure you heard of all the slogans/dialogue out there regarding suicide prevention. But, the short and sweet of it is that, some but but not all people can be helped with their suicidal thoughts and that some, but no all people can be stopped from taking their life. It's the reality that not all depressions are crated equal.

We need to make every effort to provide effective help to anyone who is suicidal. But society also needs to recognize that not every suicide can be prevented, in spite of our best efforts. -After Suicide Loss: Coping with your Grief

The difficulty that comes with this perfect storm is that an element of it requires that the individual who is suicicial must communicate their distress and intentions in a way that is recognizable. The recognizable part in and of itself becomes difficult as suicidal individuals typically will communicate such distress without raising major red flags.

Lastly, the suicidial person has to be able to have some part of them that has a desire to live. For most they become conflicted about dying and feel they have exhausted all resources and coping strategies on their end to solve their problems and resolve their distress. The fail to see the forest for the trees and instead make a permanent choice over a temporary situation.

The question remains, the question that plagues a suicide survivor daily: Could the suicide of my loved one have been prevented? The unpacking of the perfect storm helps us to understand that some suicides can be prevented but it is rarely within the power of just one person to prevent a suicide. It takes collective efforts. It takes a village. It take the right things happening at the right time. Everything from mental health professionals and systems, family and friends, and the suicidal person themselves.

For more information about suicide and about Psychiatric disorders:

  • The National Insutitue of Mental Health -

  • The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention -

  • The American Association of Suicidology -

  • The American Psychiatric Association -

  • The American Psychological Association -

  • The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention -

Organizations and Online Resources:

All these groups have resources for survivors.


  • Life After Suicide with Dr. Jennifer Ashton


Jordan, J. Ph.D. & Baugher, B. Ph.D. (2016). After Suicide Loss: Coping with Your Grief (2nd ed.). Newcastle, Washington: Caring People Press


Traveling Light Counseling is in the heart of Port Saint Lucie, FL and easily assessable from both Vero Beach and Martin County due to our close proximity to US1 and the Turnpike. I am committed to helping individuals be the best version they can be, even in the storms of life.

September is NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION MONTH. Join the movement is sharing ways that our communities can #bethe1 to help someone in crisis. It's ok to ask for help call 1.800.273.8255( 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) or text HOME to 741741 (crisis text line)


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