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A suicide in Seattle's vegan community spurs heartbreak & awareness

i Oct 27th by

We’re heartbroken to learn that a member of Seattle’s vegan community has killed himself.

Of course, he belonged to many communities — family, friends, people who saw him regularly but were acquaintances — and that means a lot of very painful grieving is happening now. Our love and wishes for healing go out to everyone whose lives he touched and who is hurting.

It’s also a good time to remember that suicide is something we can and should talk about — that expressing what’s in our hearts at a time like this can help us heal and eventually motivate us to find out more about suicide’s warning signs and what we can do about them.

As Veda Stram, an animal rights activist from Camano Island, wrote when she learned of this recent death, “My only relationship with him was as a customer at Vegan Haven, where I volunteer one day a week. I probably saw him each and every time I volunteered….. My writing this is to BEG, ENCOURAGE, URGE anyone in whatever we call ‘our vegan community’ to let us know if you’re in trouble.”

The world would be a better place if that were true in all communities — if people felt they could talk about their suicidal thoughts and feelings, and if they could get meaningful, professional help when they did.

Like many people who’ve known someone who’s died by suicide, Veda said she keeps revisiting her interactions with him and wondering what she “should have seen, could have done, might have ignored.” (See below for bereavement resources.)

Most people who kill themselves do exhibit warning signs. Tragically, most of us are unaware of these signs until it’s too late. It’s not a failing of any one person, but a failure of our social system that we are not taught about suicide prevention. People die as a result, and the people who grieve them have an added burden of confusion and guilt.

The sliver of good news is that becoming aware of suicide and its effects can spur change: It can encourage people to learn about suicide prevention, to learn that it’s okay to ask someone if they’re considering suicide. The question itself, asked from a place of caring, will not make someone who’s not suicidal suddenly start to consider it — and that question could end up saving a person’s life.

Here’s a list of warning signs:

  • Talking about suicide or a wish to die

  • Talking about feeling trapped, desperate, or needing to escape from an intolerable situation

  • Feelings of being a burden to others

  • Losing interest in things, or losing the ability to experience pleasure

  • Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn

  • Acting irritable or agitated

  • Showing rage, or talking about seeking revenge for being victimized or rejected, whether or not the situations the person describes seem real

If you’re concerned about someone, it’s important to take it seriously. Here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t tell the person to “stop being dramatic” or to “get over it”

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1.800.273.8255) with the person you are concerned about

  • Go to a local hospital emergency department with the person you are concerned about

  • Call 911; identify yourself and explain your concern

You can also encourage professional counseling by:

  • Calling your local crisis line, 2-1-1, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1.800.273 .8255) for resources in your community

  • If the person has medical insurance, check to see what providers are covered by their plan

  • Go with the person to their first counseling appointment

There are more resources at Forefront (a good thing UW funds), including resources for people who are bereaved by suicide, also known as “suicide survivors.” That can include anyone who knew the person who died, even peripherally.

Suicide is a shock that can bring out the most desperate, heart-breaking words and behavior. It can also lead to powerful familial, social, systemic change.