I find it interesting that after high profile suicides my newsfeed is often filled with posts from well meaning individuals with blanket statements along the lines of “If you need to talk, I’m here.” It makes sense. We want people to know they aren’t alone and that we are there for them. Unfortunately, putting that invitation out there may be futile when it comes to our friends who are suffering. These people may not be able to reach out and ask for help. One of the features of depression is isolation. That person may not have the strength to reach out in response to that post. They might not see that post.
What makes someone think about suicide? Imagine being physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted all the time. You feel alone. You just want the pain to end. It doesn’t feel like there is any other way to end it. You have lost hope.
It isn’t uncommon to think about suicide. It may start as a fleeting thought. Then that thought gets louder and more frequent. It gets so strong that the person starts to think of how to do it and maybe starts to prepare to act on those thoughts. Then maybe something happens that makes them want to carry that plan through. There are different risk levels of suicide ranging from passive thoughts to having a plan and intent. It doesn’t have to be a linear progression either.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US.
Every 12 minutes someone in the US takes their life.
On average there are 123 suicides per day.
For every completed suicide there are 25 attempts.
- AFSP.ORG data from 2016
Suicide is the most preventable cause of death. If it is known that someone is struggling and they are able to connect with support.
What can we do to stop this epidemic?
We need to not be afraid to have uncomfortable conversations. We need to make it ok to talk about mental health struggles and we need to make it ok to talk about suicide. Talking about it can be a protective factor. There can be relief in giving voice to the thoughts someone has been holding inside. Then, they don’t feel alone with the dark thoughts. If someone is struggling ask them - How are you? How dark does it get? Are you thinking about suicide?
We need to show up for each other and show that we care. If we know someone is struggling we need to be the ones to reach out to them. Send a text just to say you’re thinking about them. Make plans. Invite them to talk about what they’re going through if they want. Invite them to do something fun together to get their mind off things. Ask them how you can help support them. Tell them you think they’re awesome and that you care about them.
We need to give people hope. When someone is struggling they may not see an end to the darkness. Let them know that it will get better. It may not feel like it now, but it will get better. The only way to know that for sure is to stay around to see that sunrise. If you’ve struggled and came through to the other side (or know someone that has) share those stories of hope. Sometimes someone may struggle to believe in that hope. Let them know that’s ok if they aren’t there yet. Let them know you’ll believe for the both of you until they find their hope. Let them know you’ll be with them throughout their journey.
We need to connect people to support. Everyone deserves support. It may come in the form of therapy, support groups, online forums, spiritual guidance, and doctors, just to name a few. I believe everyone deserves therapy. Offer to go with them to their first appointment, if it will make them more comfortable. If they don’t connect immediately to the person they meet with, let them know it may take time to build a relationship. If it’s not a good fit, let them know it’s ok to try someone or something else. It’s important for people to feel comfortable with their support. Get support for yourself while you are supporting them. Get support for yourself anyways. Again, everyone deserves therapy.
What can you do when there is a high profile suicide instead of making a post inviting people to call you if they need anything? Make a post about hope. Send a message to your loved ones just to say hi, to let them know that you are thinking of them, and to let them know you care. Check in with loved ones that you know have been struggling to ask how they are doing, offer support, and let them know you care. Engage in dialogue about mental health to help decrease the stigma. Spread awareness about resources. Connect to resources. Go to therapy yourself. You deserve it! Let people know about your experiences and invite them to share about theirs.
What if we made it a point to do all of these things regularly? Why wait? There are many stories about people who were struggling that describe how on a dark day a smile or kind word from a friend or even a stranger made a difference. We don’t know what is going on in another person’s world. What if we made it a point to smile and be kind to each person we interact with?
I see you. I care.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, know that there is hope. Reach out for 24/7 Support. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK, San Diego Access & Crisis Line 888-724-7240, and the Crisis Text Line - Text CONNECT to 741741.
Survivors of Suicide Loss offers support to those who have lost loved ones to suicide.
You are not alone.