Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley welcome Vanessa McGann to the Open to Hope show. McGann works with the American Association of Suicidology, and is an expert on deaths related to drug and alcohol use. Suicide is a behavior, not a disease, which is a fact that many people struggle to face. This episode features clips of numerous people talking about loved ones they’ve lost to suicide. Thomas Joiner says, “With suicide, you can’t physically attack it,” like you can with other types of threats.
Suicide can be prevented, particularly when it involves drug and alcohol use. Plus, loved ones who remain behind can also seek out specialists, support groups and therapists who are skilled in working with suicide-related deaths. For McGann, she notes that once a family has experienced suicide, they’re fearful there will be another suicide. She’s a clinical psychologist, and has often seen families worry over this becoming a “snowball effect.” Unfortunately, there is a higher rate of suicide in families that have already faced a suicide.
Living with Uncertainty
Losing somebody to suicide can sometimes “normalize” it. It becomes very realistic to think that another suicide may take place. McGann works with families and suicide survivors, as well as other therapists who are interested in specializing in this field. Losing a patient to suicide is a challenge that clinicians face too. Fear of lawsuits is very real. Dr. Heidi Horsley says “one of our biggest fears is that one of our clients will die of suicide.”
Therapists can be riddled with guilt when a patient commits suicide. Even though your head knows you did everything right, the heart can take a while to catch up. People going through a hard time can be good at hiding it, and “missing those signs” can simply happen.