There’s no doubt about it: life is hard. It’s a given. It is not easy. There are good times and there are bad times and basically everything in between. It can be a big rollercoaster ride through the up’s and the downs. Sometimes life seems unfair, and difficult to manage. Sometimes life is beautiful and wonderful, and it is celebrated. But life is not impossible. And life is worth it—ultimately but it isn’t always easy to remember that during the darkest times.
For some, those darkest times hit even harder. According to the World Health Organization, depression is a common illness worldwide, with more than 300 million people affected. Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. Especially when long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition. It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.
Suicide is one of the worst imaginable things. We can all can help to prevent suicide. September is National Suicide Prevention Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness, and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most.
1 in 5 adults will experience mental illness this year. According to NAMI, suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. Suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues. In 2016 alone, nearly 45,000 individuals died by suicide, leaving behind their friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss. In many cases, friends and families affected by a suicide loss (often called “suicide loss survivors”) are left in the dark. Too often the feelings of shame and stigma prevent them from talking openly.
As September being National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—it’s a perfect time to share and open the dialogue to shed light on this sometimes-stigmatized topic. We all can use this month to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services. It is also important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention.
FACTS: From TheElevationSociety.org:
- Every 40 seconds we lose a life to suicide in the world.
- Every 12 minutes we lose a life to suicide in America.
- For every 1 suicide there is around 25 attempts.
- There are twice as many suicides than there are homicides.
- The suicide rates for children 10-14 doubled from 2007 to 2014.
- More Men have died by suicide yet more women have attempted.
- More young people die from suicide then from Cancer, AIDS, chronic lung disease, pneumonia, heart diseases all combined.
- There is an estimate of around 3,041 attempts per day by young people grade 9 – 12.
- The following are risk factors according to the CDC:
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of child maltreatment
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
- Local epidemics of suicide
- Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
- Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
- Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
- Physical illness
- Easy access to lethal methods
- Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thought
Know the Signs from Verywellmind.com:
Prevention also involves being able to recognize the signs of suicide, which can include:
- Talking about death or suicide
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Saying that they are a burden
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Losing interest in activities
- Extreme mood swings
- Giving away possessions
- Saying goodbye to family and friends
WHILE YOU ARE LISTENING HERE ARE A FEW THINGS YOU SHOULD STAY AWAY FROM SAYING:
Be careful to stay away from any sayings that may add additional weight and stress to someone who is having suicide ideation. Even though we may have the right intentions, saying the following statements possesses the possibility of causing more damage. People are already overwhelmed by unbearable pain, therefore saying certain statements may potentially pile on additional guilt.
- “It could be always be worse” or “People in other countries have it worse than you,” etc.
- “Think about how devastated I would be if I lost you.”
“The Safety Plan is a written, prioritized list of coping strategies and resources for reducing suicide risk. It is a prevention tool that is designed to help those who struggle with their suicidal thoughts and urges to survive.” – Barbara Stanley, Ph.D. and Gregory K. Brown, Ph.D. A few of the areas to include are: Identifying personal warning signs, professional help, trusting people you can talk to, and ways to distract yourself.
Check out some safety plan templates and resources:
The following are some suicide prevention tips recommended by the non-profit organization Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
Don’t Discount Their Feelings
- While you may think that their problems aren’t serious enough to warrant suicide, what really matters is how serious they perceive them to be. If it feels important to them, then, in their mind, suicide may seem like a valid option.
- Listen to what they are saying without offering judgments. Don’t be dismissive of their experiences or emotions.
- Most importantly, never dismiss suicidal talk or threats. If a person is making comments that seem to indicate that they are depressed or thinking of taking their own life, you should always take them seriously.
Look at Suicide as a Cry for Help
- When a person attempts suicide, this isn’t necessarily a sign that they want to die. Instead, it’s an indicator that they are in great emotional pain, but don’t know how to deal with it. Suicide has started to look like their only option to escape a situation that they don’t know how to handle.
- If they are still alive, however, they are desperately seeking an alternative to death and attempting suicide is their way of reaching out and saying that they need help.
Be a Good Listener
- Being able to talk with a caring friend and unburden yourself from your troubles can go a long way in relieving the unbearable build-up of pressure that can lead to a suicide attempt.
- Being a good listener doesn’t require any special skills. Be patient and accepting but avoid getting into an argument or trying to offer simplistic solutions. Avoid any “Have you tried X, Y, or Z” comments that focus on quick “fixes.” Such attempts might come off as insensitive and seem to trivialize what a person is experiencing. Simply be there and show that you care.
Encourage Them to Get Help for Their Depression
- Even though some people’s suicides may sometimes seem to come out of the blue, it’s quite likely that they had been depressed for a very long time.
- Getting prompt professional assistance at the first signs of depression is a very important step in preventing suicide.
- Working to take away the stigma of depression and encouraging people who are hurting to get the help that they need right away can go a long way in saving lives because the problem is dealt with before it gets too bad.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask About Their Suicidal Feelings
While you may be afraid to bring up the topic of suicide for fear of giving them ideas, the fact is that those thoughts and feelings are there regardless of what you might say. What you are really doing by bringing the topic up is giving them an opportunity to open up to you and allow you to help.
If They Are in Danger, Don’t Leave Them Alone
- If they seem to be in danger of hurting themselves, do not leave them alone. Take steps to get them away from any means that they could use to hurt themselves, such as weapons or pills.
- Call 911 or another emergency number for assistance if need be or offer to transport them to the hospital.
Encourage Them to See a Mental Health Professional
- It may take some patience and persistence, but urge them to make an appointment with a mental health professional. Once they have made the appointment, continue to maintain contact in order to encourage them to follow through with appointments and treatment plans.
- There are also mental health organizations you can reach out to for more information.
Know That Secrets Can Kill
- If the person asks you to not tell anyone, be aware that you may have to break your promise in order to help him. Having him alive but angry with you is preferable to keeping a promise that leads to him taking his life.
- For a complete list of suicide prevention resources, view this list of organizations.
“Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair.” – American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
We can all play a role through the power of connection by having real conversations about mental health with people in everyday moments. If you or a loved is struggling, know that there are resources and there is help. If you believe that a loved one may be thinking of suicide, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.