When we lose one of our tribe

Content Warning: suicide, self-harm

The news of Kent Taylor’s recent suicide has shocked and upset many of us in the tinnitus community. As the founder and owner of the Texas Roadhouse chain of restaurants, his death was widely reported around the world. His family attributed his suicide to long Covid symptoms including “severe tinnitus”.

It’s deeply sad when anyone feels the need to end their life. But the naming of tinnitus as one of the reasons Mr Taylor died brings this death very close to home. It has proved unsettling for many of us with the same condition. We have become much more aware of our own tinnitus as a result.

Mr Taylor was clearly in considerable distress to take his life. He is not alone in doing so. Every year I am made aware of several suicides that include tinnitus as one of the causes.

Many forums and Facebook groups refuse to discuss these tragic deaths. But I feel that this is a mistake. Mercifully, it is a rare occurrence, given the number of people living with tinnitus, but it does happen. And, it can be difficult to handle difficult thoughts and emotions around these experiences when we have nowhere to discuss them.

Managing our emotions around suicide

Here are some practical ways in which we can manage our thoughts and feelings in situations like these:

Acknowledge our emotions. What are you feeling right now about this news? Shock? Anxiety? Grief? Fear? Acknowledge those emotions. It’s natural and perfectly understandable to feel them. Sit with them and allow them to be rise up and be present.

Be compassionate with ourselves. After sitting with these emotions, recognize what a challenging period this is for you. Your tinnitus may seem more intrusive and, again, this is perfectly understandable in this situation. Choose some of the following self-compassion phrases to say to yourself:

• This is a moment of suffering
• This is really hard right now
• I’m really struggling.
• Others are struggling too
• It’s normal to feel like this in these circumstances
• These feelings will pass
• It’s going to be okay

Recognize the situation. It was not just tinnitus that led Mr Taylor to take his life. He certainly had other symptoms of long Covid, and we have no information on what else was happening in his life.

Reach out. If you want to talk about your feelings around Mr Taylor’s death, or your own tinnitus, then reach out to someone, whether they have tinnitus or not to. If you have no one you can talk to, then please reach out to me.

Don’t delay. If this news creates or compounds suicidal feelings, please ask for help immediately.

You can speak to:
• Your general practitioner.
• Helplines available in your country –ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines
• Your nearest hospital. Simply take yourself there and tell them how you are feeling.

Pray. If prayer offers you comfort, pray for Mr Taylor, his family, his friends and all at Texas Roadhouse as well as our tinnitus community.

Donate. If you want to do something practical donate to the British Tinnitus Association  or the American Tinnitus Association .

Educate. Take this moment to educate others about your tinnitus experience and the impact that tinnitus has on your life. Sometimes people without tinnitus need the shock of seeing how much the condition can affect somebody else before they start to understand how tinnitus can impact their nearest and dearest.