Mental Health Blog

The Risks of Avoiding the Discussion: emotions, suicide, and self harm. 

Posted by Makenna Clements on


“Fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself”- wise words from one of my personal favorite fictional characters, Hermione Granger. While she may have been responding to a wizard’s resistance to speaking the name of the formidable Lord Voldemort, her words carry meaning on a much broader scale.

Let’s consider a couple of ways this sentiment applies to mental and emotional health. One of my jobs as a therapist is to empower my clients to address, process, and understand their emotions. The reason being, our unresolved emotions have a nasty tendency to contribute to things like anxiety, depression, and unhealthy coping behaviors like substance abuse and self-harm. This isn’t to say these challenges are purely psychological - there are a variety of factors that can play a role. However, this has a lot to do with it. 

To many of us, emotions (and the traumas and wounds they’re associated with) are uncomfortable and even scary. There’s a tendency to believe allowing yourself to feel those emotions will inevitably lead to drowning in them. We fear being sucked up by them, trapped with no way out or ability to regain our footing. We then find creative ways to avoid our emotions, under the guise of “dealing with them”. Hear me when I say I have absolute empathy for the part of you that’s afraid - facing emotions can feel like facing Voldemort without a wand (pardon my inner nerd- I’ll abandon the analogy soon, I promise), and it is important to understand how or why that fear developed for us. At the same time, it is addressing and exploring those emotions that is actually our best bet in relieving them. If you don’t believe me, think about the last time you cried. Like, really really cried. Remember how good it felt? How relieving it was to simply get it all out? The cause of those tears didn’t necessary go away, but I can imagine you felt much better, if not at least slightly relieved.

This also applies to another “topic that must not be named”- suicide and self harm. In interacting with parents, both in a professional capacity and in my personal life, there is naturally a concern about keeping children safe, and preventing things like self-harm and suicide. With that, it’s not uncommon for parents to fear “planting the idea” of self harm or suicide, and as a result avoid or tiptoe around the topic as to not encourage it. This fear, however, is misguided. Speaking directly about suicide and self harm with your children opens up lines of communication, reduces secrecy around the subject, lets them know it’s a safe thing for them to come to you about, and in bringing it to light you can take away some of its power.  How you go about this will vary based on circumstances/developmental stage. For more on how to have these conversations, go to: http://www.sptsusa.org/parents/talking-to-your-kid-about-suicide/).

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