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Think about and note when you don't understand

Some people believe suicide cannot be predicted or precisely prevented. Trained professionals, in general, really do not know who is capable and who may die by suicide. And then when a tragedy occurs, there is the corollary which basically says that the collective 'we' did all that could have been done. And of course on one level they are right. Surely we would do everything we possibly could do to ease suffering and prevent a tragedy. It is in our ignorance that we sometimes fail and the devastation is total and real. I guess I think we should be doing much more to reduce suffering and ultimately to prevent tragedy. I can say that no researcher has contacted my family wanting to know more about Simon and some of the details of his life, his feelings, his personality, his behaviors in an effort to piece together more of the puzzle of suffering and suicide. We have kept everything -- phones, ipods, computer, our memories to support any future researcher. We talk about Simon to keep our memories. Yet so far, nobody has asked to know more. But in fact artificial intelligence is beginning to make predictions and based upon those predictions, caregivers are reaching out in order to try and prevent. But so far this work is applicable to adults who have medical and event histories that can assist the prediction model. What about young people -- where suicide rates are increasingly increasing. And why would this be? We really should want to know more. But we aren't doing nearly enough and how do I know this? Because nobody has called. Nearly every traffic accident (of any significance) is investigated and reported. There are far fewer suicides but no real investigation into the life of the person who left. We could do so much better.

But then I think about something that struck me early on. As family and friends of anyone who is suffering we possibly could do better and we should strive to try. I am certainly aware of the many families who lost loved ones from suicide who really did do everything. I understand that. I do believe there are many more families who lost a child at a younger age who feel they really weren't aware of the depth of suffering or the possible results. It is for these folks that I write.

As I look back, I think the possible inflection points are likely where Simon said something or did something that I did not understand . And in those moments you can either rationalize it away, ignore it altogether or lean into it and start trying to understand -- both with help from your loved one and also outside help from others. I do think there were times I could have leaned into the misunderstanding and I strongly encourage you to do that. I do not think working hard to understand what is misunderstood is over-reacting and again I wish I would have closed some of those gaps. By seeking understanding, I don't mean to try and convince a person not to feel the way they feel but rather to really try and understand what might be going on. In many cases differences of opinions are all that separates us but in other cases some type of suffering might be driving the difference -- and that could be all the difference in the world. One of the last things Simon told me was that he felt misunderstood. And honestly I did not understand what he meant. And what I thought he meant at the time was way off the mark. Now I think I might understand. As Pink Floyd sings in Dark Side of the Moon -- "there's someone in my head and it's not me."

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Camala Buchanan
Camala Buchanan
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