Suicide Prevention and The Nine of Wands

Before I get into the heartbreaking topic of suicide—the tenth leading cause of death in the US—I want to talk about Tarot cards. Whatever your beliefs are, Tarot can be a fun way to gain insight and new perspectives.

I was shuffling my deck (the Rider-Waite deck, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, an artist, stage designer and suffragist who was given little credit for her work), and this card dropped out: The Nine of Wands.

nine of wands

This card shows a person who is weary, barely hanging on to fight one more of many battles. It’s a card that says you’re fatigued, you’ve gone through too much, you’re feeling done. But you’re not done. You’re hanging on. There’s some part of you that wants to keep going. Underneath all of the pain, you are still there. And you’re about to push through.

Of course, when someone feels suicidal, they’re in too much pain to want to push through. They might feel isolated, mired in shame, believing they’re a burden. They might be coping with institutional prejudice. They might be clinically depressed or lacking the resources they need.

Often, they’re surviving trauma. “Psychological” trauma is a physical condition—it’s the result of anything which overwhelms our ability to cope and causes lasting dysregulation to the nervous system—which is why we can’t just “get over it,” and why we need a body-mind approach to get through it.

We’re all vulnerable to feeling this way. If you’re ever suicidal, you’re not alone. There are people who want to help. Social support soothes the nervous system, dissolves shame. There are people who have some knowledge and experience about what you’re going through. You are a part of this world.

Here are some helpful insights from people I’ve worked with, who are some of my best teachers and sources of inspiration.

        • Just because you were not shown love, does not make you unlovable (even when you feel that way, it simply isn’t true).
        • You’re not broken because you suffered. You now have that much more capacity for love and compassion.
        • It’s ok to acknowledge that you really don’t want to be here anymore, but no emotions are permanent. They all pass eventually.
        • You are not defined by what happened to you.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Line, available to anyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 1-800-273-TALK (8255). All calls are confidential.

For information on trauma and recovery, I recommend these books:

The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Waking the Tiger, by Peter Levine