Resource Category: Suicide

Suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die. People considering suicide typically feel an overwhelming, never-ending (or continuous) sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair. They believe suicide is the only way to stop the suffering.

Suicide is a complex issue and should not be attributed to a single cause. Not everyone who dies by suicide has been diagnosed with a mental illness, and not all people with a mental illness seek to end their lives by suicide.

Many factors can contribute to someone’s decision to end their life, such as loss, trauma, addiction, serious illness, and other life events that feel overwhelming. Remember, it is the experience of the events (not necessarily the events themselves) that contribute to a person feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope.

The language you use makes a difference. When talking about suicide or suicide-related behaviors, stay away from “committed suicide.” Instead, use terms such as “died by suicide” or “completed suicide attempt.” It is a common, and harmful, idea that those who died by suicide “commit” something wrong, e.g., a crime, a sin, etc., against themselves. And this blame only furthers stigma. We need to recognize that suicide is a disease that drives people toward self-harm and treat them without blame or shame. By changing the way we speak about it, we can begin to eliminate the stigma and criminalization of suicidal behaviors.

Rosh Hashanah is an exciting time of year. It’s a chance to reflect on our past and set our intentions and goals for our future. This opportunity for growth and achievement can be thrilling. But for people who didn’t think they would make it to the new year — because they were struggling with suicidal ideation, survived an attempted suicide, or went through a traumatic experience that left them emotionally drained — entering the synagogue and facing the prospect of a new year can be overwhelming. In those moments that feel daunting, we need to reorient ourselves, breathe, and pause. In other words, we need Rosh Hashanah.
Depending on the traditions of a person’s specific Jewish community, a death by suicide can include all of the same prayers and rituals as any other death.However, we should remember the particular sensitivities around death by suicide and the family and friends who survive. We offer some prayers and rituals, written by survivors, you might use or adapt.
As Mental Health Awareness Month draws to a close, I think about my friends’ son who died by suicide a few weeks ago. He was 16. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and my heart aches for my friends. This most awful of tragedies continuously haunts me. It’s impossible to imagine that someone who is 16—who has his whole life in front of him—could be in so much pain that he chooses to make such an irreversible decision...