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"He did not look like someone who would commit suicide”

When we hear of someone we know or a celebrity commit suicide, how many times have we heard that kind of statement from people around? How does someone who commits suicide ‘look’ like? Is there a ‘look’ for people who are suicidal? How easy it would be to prevent suicides if there was such an appearance.

On the face of it, we have to assume that people are not talking about physical looks. They are not saying a person’s physical appearance indicates their suicidal thoughts. Let us cut them some slack.

Perhaps what people are intending to say is that the person did not seem to have the ‘personality’ for suicide. They did not seem to have the mental make-up to commit suicide.

But in reality, there is no such defined personality. A person driven to the extreme where they feel worthless, helpless and hopeless about the future can take such a drastic step. So far as we know, it is about the circumstances that drive people to suicide.

We cannot make out from their external appearance and behaviour that the person may be a suicidal risk unless someone has spoken to them extensively to understand what is going on in their mind. Even then you cannot be certain about their suicidal tendencies.

We often read about the person who has committed suicide and think, ‘They had everything and yet they took this step’. When we say that, we are unconsciously comparing our lives to that person’s and thinking “They had what I want and yet they took their own life.” We don’t really know what ‘having everything’ meant to that person. Your ‘everything’ is not their ‘everything’.

Despondency can hit anyone any time. Unless we are deeply connected to another person (and sometimes even then) and the person shares what is going on in their mind we can never know who has reached the extreme level of distress. There are no ‘looks’ for a person on the verge of suicide. We have it in us to treat people around us with as much kindness as possible. That is our redemption.

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