Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. This day was started in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and World Health Organization (WHO) to inspire awareness and action and to provide a forum for the conversation around suicide. You have likely been exposed to any number of suicide prevention messages today, whether you were looking for it or not. Has this been helpful? The data doesn’t show it. But friends, data is just numbers with the tears wiped away.
Our uncles, parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends – and our first responders, our heroes, our colleagues, and our helpers – are still dying by suicide at rates that feel terrifying and overwhelming. More people are affected by suicide grief every day. And sitting with the weight of all of this heartache can feel devoid of all hope. But friends, there is a future.
It is hard to face the realities that we haven’t figured out the exact algorithms to predict suicide and that some people may still lose their lives to suicide. We have figured out so many other public health problems, but there remain hundreds of questions that surround suicide.
Suicide will never be solved by professionals – there aren’t enough of us. Suicides aren’t a professional problem; suicides are a financial problem, a family problem, a political problem, a gun violence problem, an access-to-lethal-means problem, a trauma problem, an acceptance problem, a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps problem, an over-medication problem, a military problem, a social-pressures problem, a shame problem.
Suicide is complex, and will never be solved by choosing to stop smoking or by exercising the right way or by taking the right medication. We will stop losing our people to suicide when we look up, when we look around, and when we check on our people. We will stop losing our people to suicide when we are more scared of losing someone than we are about talking about suicide. We will stop losing people to suicide when we reach out, and when we make it ok for people to be heard.
Suicides are preventable, insomuch as connection is possible. Suicides are preventable, insomuch as help-seeking isn’t shamed. Suicides are preventable, insomuch as we all ban together to recognize pain in our loved ones and respond.
Suicide prevention is not a solo mission. Check on your people – don’t wait for them to reach out.
On the one hand I appreciate that it’s “ok” – and even acceptable – to talk about suicide one day a year; on the other, it will never be enough. Just like celebrating love on February 14th isn’t enough to carry the whole rest of the year, neither is September 10th enough to carry the message of how deeply our society is affected by suicide and how much we all desperately need connection.
Get trained. Ask questions. Open the conversation. Be present.
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If you’re hurting, afraid, or need someone to talk to, please reach out. Someone will reach back. Please stay. You are so deeply valued, so incomprehensibly loved—even when you can’t feel it—and you are worth your life.
You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada), or The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. If you don’t like talking on the phone, you can reach Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
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