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Friend Committed Suicide

Friend Committed Suicide


Dear Rachel,

I just found out that someone I was quite close with committed suicide. I am so shocked and overwhelmed by the news, but I am also feeling incredibly guilty. I can't help but wonder what I could have done differently or if there was anything that could have prevented this. He had so many friends who were there for him and loved him as well as a supportive family. I just don't understand how it happened and at this point am just wondering what I should be doing for his memory?


Dear Devastated,

There is a desperate need in the Jewish world to openly discuss mental illness and take away any stigma associated with itI am so sorry to hear of your loss. Losing someone close to you is always difficult, but when you discover the person took his or her life it is that much harder. As I am sure you already do know and have been told by others that you cannot blame yourself. Your friend was clearly ill, and his perception of reality was so warped that even with a supportive family and friends it was not enough to stop his actions. I have no doubt that everyone who was close to him is wondering what they could have done differently; but someone who wants to take their own life is very hard to stop.

You ask what you can do practically at this point. There are a few suggestions I have that deal with different aspects of this tragedy. For starters, there is a desperate need in the world at large and specifically in the Jewish world to openly discuss mental illness and take away any stigma associated with it. We would never shun someone in a wheelchair or diagnosed with cancer. Nor should there be anything other than support and sympathy for someone who suffers from a mental illness. That person is sick and needs treatment. Without it, he or she will continue to suffer and as in the case of your friend, it can lead to death.

So speak to your friends and in your community. Speak about this tragedy and the need for medical and psychological support for those who suffer. Help diminish the stigma and let people know that it is okay to ask for help and that it's a sign of strength, not weakness, to acknowledge when there is a problem. Do what you can to let people know that whatever they are facing there are options to enable them to find some relief to their pain , yet continue to live their lives,

In terms of other ways of offering support to the family, there is both what you can do materially and also what is needed spiritually. It is quite possible that the family is in need of financial support to help pay for the funeral expenses and perhaps other bills that were left behind. Helping to pay for a proper Jewish burial is a huge mitzvah. It is also vital that it be arranged for someone to say the Mourner's Kaddish for him. If he does not have a family member who is able to do this, it should be arranged on his behalf.

As much learning and good deeds be dedicated to his memoryAnd lastly, I would suggest that as much learning and good deeds be dedicated to his memory. Clearly this was a very troubled and pained soul and the more that can be done to help his soul find peace at this point should be done. If you do not yet light Shabbat candles, that would be a very special mitzvah to undertake in his merit; the holy candles of Shabbat will be a weekly memorial to this soul, for "the soul of man is the candle of G‑d."

Again, I am sorry to hear of such horrible news. I wish you comfort and support as you deal with the loss of your friend, and may we always remember how precious and valuable every life is.

"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Discussion (17)
October 31, 2015
this is just sad to me. And to just say "your friend was clearly ill".....well it really minimizes that this person died of "sadness". It really infuriates me that when someone commits suicide the comment most often made is that they were mentally ill. is so much more than that
July 9, 2014
I lost a close friend 2 days ago
I lost a really good Best friend, The best of friends, 2 days ago... She killed herself... I don't know why... She sounded like she had a good life....

She is the same age of me...
She was 14.
And she had so much in life, But ended up killing herself...

I am devestated... i just found out it happend.... And i cannot stop crying...
December 10, 2013
Helping a sensitive soul
There have been recommendations to always take seriously even jokes about self-injury. One person's encouragement could make a good difference. Also, groups that encourage self-help and support can provide a group of supportive and understanding peers. Consider that your friend did not actually choose that path. How many times have there been palm fronds, swerving cars, landscaping bags, 18-wheeler trucks at a perpendicular angle to the road on a Friday night when I have chosen to go to services by car or to have dinner with friends? G-d forbid there had been an accident, it might have been spun a certain way. Be well and it is a blessing that you care. Maybe your increased sensitivity will make a difference in people's lives well into the future.
December 9, 2013
Friend Committed Suicide
My reply as a spiritual and a right wing Jew who believes in the fact that every Jew should help out every Jew where possible is that way too many Jews have no sense of responsibility and accountability and care about their fellow Jews. I network with Jews every day and many Jews tell me not to play the Jew card which is the reason for Jews to feel as alone as non-Jews. Jews have the same poverty rate as non-Jews even though Jews have way more Millionaires and Billionaires as a percentage of Jews. In my Grandparents day, Jew were forced and chose to live in a Jewish ghetto in Canadian and American cities and they helped each other. I once heard one successful Jew tell me about Darwin and the best Jew wins, which shows me we are alone as Jews. This is why you can see the intermarriage, poverty, criminal, voting for Osama/Obama, and other negative destructive issues facing Jews of all ages
Jeffrey Muchnik
February 18, 2013
Lost two friends in one week to suicide
I lost a very close friend to suicide last week . And I got word of another one that did same thing . How cope and deal with all this I am so toren up inside .
February 27, 2012
How to stop a bully
Get friends and kick his behind. Most bullies are brave in a pack but turn in creepy cowards when isolated. To see these once-brave-now-suddenly-scared-to-death guys running through the bushes where a rabbit couldn't go is very rewarding, and even very depressed buddy of your would be rolling with laughter.
February 26, 2012
i have a friend who was in yr9 he commtied suicide we all blamed ourself everyone kind of lost it became depressed and turned to drugs but after a while we learnt it wasnt going to bring him bak and the pain wouldnt go but it would get easier. none of us recongnized the signs and we all blamed ourselves because not one of us read the signs we didnt even no he was unhappy. But we stuck together and life is moving on we will forever always have him in our memory. I was wondering is there anyway i can help stop bullying and people commting suicide because of it ?
auckland, nz
November 23, 2011
Our New Neighbor/Housemate Noah
I feel sad that less than about a week ago, Noah's body was discovered in the woods near the house we live at. According to the landlady who lives here and was treating him like her little brother, feeding him, etc., he had apparently taken off a few days earlier, without his wallet or any other possessions. He didn't have a phone.

He was like me a vegetarian and musician. I had been looking fowards to spending more time around the house to get to know him more/ shore music and such. i've been having a gig everyday very far away, and come back late, so it's hard. Also it was a little hard talking to him in general. he didn't like to say hi or anything. his girlfriend said he's always like this, and needs friends. Anyway, the day which we later learned he had disappeared, i was driving home from my work that night and was thinking how i'd focus on noah when i got back, or the next day, which i planned on spending it doing work on the computer and piano from home. But he was go
Feeling so sad
calabasas, ca
January 22, 2011
Friend Committed Suicide
Devastated, you CAN'T blame yourself for the actions of others! Your friend had serious problems and needed help.

Usually, people commit suicide because they feel "trapped" and believe that death is the only way out. You can talk to your friends and family and even seek therapy for your feelings of guilt.
Providence, RI
October 7, 2010
I think we should remember a couple of things here. First, it bears pointing out what the beit yosef had to say that, in our times, most suicides are by people who are entirely emotionally competent.

Second, Suicide does on occasion bear rational causes. Live is not always a pleasant thing to endure, and many people wear "rose colored glasses" as to this reality. When facing someone who is considering suicide, attention should always be paid to things that may truly be making his or her life intolerable, rather than dismissing his/her grief as being a pure sign of mental illness.