Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization, “[m]ore than 800,000 individuals die by suicide each year and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt.”
- That is 15, 385 lives gone every week.
- That is 2,197 beautiful unfinished stories Every. Single. Day.
- That is 91 people trapped, completely alone, and isolated within themselves every hour.
- Every 60 seconds, one life is gone and someone is half-way to ending theirs.
These numbers are merely the breakdown of the reported 800,000 individuals committing suicide around the world. This does not include the unreported numbers. Even more frightening are the statistics reflecting those attempting suicide; they are 25 times as many than those who have actually completed suicide. That is 800,000 X 25. More people consider and attempt suicide than complete it.
These statistics are absolutely massive. They are INSANE. More so, they are incredibly heartbreaking.
Ang, of all days, of all topics, why choose to write about World Suicide Prevention Day?
The answer: because I am apart of the demographic. This topic and these numbers aren’t random, they reflect ME.
Truthfully and transparently, I am not open to sharing my story. Not in its entirety anyway. Perhaps one day I will be. Those closest to me – my tightest of circles – know full well the context behind the why and the how, and are witnessing the continuous growth through the pain. In short, they see the aftermath, the recovery. But these 800,000 people and 800,000 X 25 “attemptees”, we share knowing the overwhelmingly deep and frightening reality of a life-threatening combination: utter hopelessness and unrelenting loneliness.
We as a society negate to openly speak about suicide, suicide attempts, depression, mental illness, etc. We brush these crucial, related topics under the rug and label them with hurtful stigma. We even say foolish things to those struggling (whether we are aware they are or not) that they (we) can turn suicidal idealization or depression off by merely “thinking happy thoughts”, “by sticking our feet in the pool”, and the painful and disgustingly popular, “you are being selfish”. We have created a dismal culture where an abundance of hurting individuals needing and quietly desiring help are too embarrassed and too afraid to take the appropriate steps to save themselves. We ignore the topics, environment, and context of suicide then claim to not understand why anyone would take their own life after they do. There is so much more to suicide – let alone mental and behavioral health – than what we think we know (but we’ll leave the topic of the misunderstood and neglected mental health field for another day).
The truth is:
there is undeniable strength in embracing our weaknesses.
If we are not able to talk about our struggles or be encouraged to solve our problems, how do we go about being proactive? We need to be able to talk about these things openly and productively; we need to feel safe enough to ask for help and advice. That is the only way we can be proactive in the long-term; we have to start with tackling the stigma and the culture surrounding the mentality of suicide.
If you don’t fall into these statistics, man, I envy you. You are incredibly fortunate to never have felt such darkness envelope your entirety. I do have a question for you though: have you ever been in a daydream that took you some time to “snap out” of?
I want you to understand something: when a person reaches the point where suicide is all they see and all they can consider, it’s just like that daydream; someone needs to remind us to come back to the present; to practice mindfulness. Remind us to stay. Remind them to stay. When suicide becomes the only option, we are essentially in a very dangerous (for lack of a better word) trance. A trance in which the large majority of our being embraces. Only a very minuscule piece of us wants to escape from this trance. A small tiny voice that is much too easily muted by discouragement. Our mindset becomes incredibly solutions-driven in the worst of ways; diluted in the tragic mission we have convinced and committed ourselves to accomplish.
People do not “commit suicide”, we become committed to accomplishing our suicide.
This is why hospitals and emergency rooms observe the first 72 hours following an attempt. Because the likelihood of us trying again is incredibly high during those hours. If a loved one has tried to hurt themselves or has even whispered trying to hurt themselves, do not under any circumstance leave them alone for at least 72 hours. Being alone creates an environment that embraces the hopelessness and loneliness. Also, to put bluntly, 72 hours after a suicide attempt is reactive, the real question is:
how can we be proactive in actually preventing suicide?
1. First things first – understand this: You can’t save someone from suicide; they have to choose to save themselves. You can only help to remind them and place them in an environment where they realize they want to and can help themselves.
Suicide attempts are easily repeatable so let’s change the mindset to change the outcome.
2. Remind them to stay. Remind them of now. And like most answers, love is very much a key to being proactive in suicide. Never ever downplay what an individual is feeling or doing when suicide is involved. The worst possible thing you could do to someone in such a fragile state is to make them feel like you don’t care and that their struggle is easily controllable. It’s not.
Depression is real. Suicide is real.
If you care about this struggling individual, be there don’t belittle.
3. Practical methods include creating an environment where mindfulness is emphasized and the awful stigma of mental health is discarded. Suicide is a matter of life or death and so should be treated as such. We don’t heal a death-causing illness by blaming the individual, we just treat it and find ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Help your loved one by reminding them and teaching them, the depression leading up to suicide can be managed. Like asthma and cancer, we have to know how to take care and maintain our mental and behavioral health – which suicide greatly revolves in. Therapy is a wonderful option and so is visiting a psychiatrist. The option of hospitalization is nothing to be ashamed of pursuing either. There are many ways to prevent losing a life.
Though World Suicide Prevention Day is quickly coming to a close, National Suicide Prevention Week in the U.S. merely started today. Maybe your gut is telling you that you need to reach out to someone and remind them to “stay”. Maybe you’re the person searching the internet, looking for something to help you “snap out” of this dangerous trance. As members of communities, it is our responsibility to look out for those who may be struggling and encourage them to tell their story.
“Take a minute, change a life” is World Suicide Prevention Day’s 2017’s theme. Take a minute, and reach out.
Resources are available: