In a world where nearly one in 10 adults report having depression and people are better than ever at masking their feelings of pain, guilt, anxiety, worthlessness, self-loathing, and hopelessness, it has become really difficult to identify a person on the verge of committing suicide and if we can’t tell who’s suicidal, it can be almost impossible to help. While educating ourselves on the different symptoms of depression and being able to address the topic with the right amount of empathy as well as avoiding undermining or condescending statements is extremely important, it is also imperative not to neglect the role of simple acts of kindness in helping to reduce the number of lives being claimed by suicides every day.
The beauty of kindness is that it can be expressed in different ways and various measures and no matter how insignificant an act of kindness may seem, the results it yields can be stupendous. While there are stories of people like Malan Wilkinson, a 30 year old deputy artistic director at Galeri Caernarfon who was a few seconds away from jumping off the Britannia Bridge but was saved by Mr. Jones, a brave math teacher who after seeing Malan, ran up to her and in a few minutes of conversing reminded her of her worth and renewed her passion for life, there are also stories of people who have prevented suicide attempts by performing seemingly insignificant gestures.
Simple acts of kindness can be in the form of appreciation, compliments, politeness, unsolicited and solicited generosity and words of encouragement. In case you’re wondering, yes I’m telling you that by simply saying the words “thank” and “you” together to fellow human being, people have prevented suicides. Not convinced? Here are 4 proven scenarios where seemingly insignificant acts of kindness have prevented suicide attempts.
Boss’ kind words prevent suicide: Tim Sanders, a leadership coach and former chief solutions officer at Yahoo!, had made a habit of occasionally calling his subordinates and co-workers to appreciate them for their work and give them positive feedback on their contributions. Little did Tim know that by performing this simple act of kindness he was saving the life of one of his employees who after a phone call with Tim decided to exchange at a pawn shop a revolver he’d planned on using to end his own life with an Xbox console which he gifted Tim. In the words of Sanders, “sometimes, people just need people”.
Teenager’s compliments and friendliness save a stranger’s life: Samantha, a teenage girl, was walking her dog Kermit when he playfully ran up to a stranger and startled her. Samantha, feeling a sense of guilt ran up to apologize. “Did he ruin anything? I feel so bad! OMG, I love your shoes by the way; and your orange backpack too. What’s your name? I’m Samantha or Sammy just call me Sammy” Samantha went on and on and was genuinely interested in all this stranger had to say. They became friends, exchanged numbers and started texting almost immediately. Unknowing to Samantha, she had become this girl’s only friend and her one reason not to overdose in an attempt to end her own life that same evening.
The high school bathroom hero: Mallory, a high school girl, saw a girl quietly sobbing to herself in the bathroom and everyone else kept passing by and pretending she wasn’t there. Mallory was moved to empathy because she could see a bit of herself in this girl. So, despite being shy, she walked up to this stranger and said to her “you’re not alone”. Mallory would later find out after months of friendship that she had saved a life. “I had no idea as we were standing in the bathroom that she was about ready to take her life and that an act that seemed so small to me made all the difference in her life” Mallory said.
The Drive-thru hero: Glen Oliver had made a routine of picking up the cost of a drive-thru order for the person behind him, “it’s a couple dollars” he told reporters. However, on the 18th of July 2017, this simple act of kindness made all the difference in a stranger’s life. After Glenn had performed his usual kind gesture, the person whose muffin and coffee Glen paid for wrote a letter to the local news station in hopes to get a chance to thank Glen for an act of kindness that saved his life and share this life-changing experience with the world.
If we're going to win the war against suicide and depression, we have to be more intentional about the way we treat people If you don’t already practise these acts of kindness, you can start today with anyone around you, your colleague, classmate, the waiter at the cafe, the busboy, the girl on the elevator, anyone. If you already put in conscious effort into doing these, the key is to be consistent and keep sowing seeds of love into people’s lives.