Learning How to Address Suicide
Suicides have been on the rise in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 45,000 Americans take their own lives each year. That’s about 123 people every day. Specifically, suicide is one of the leading causes of death among teenagers. The suicide rate in 2016 was more than twice that of homicide. And there were approximately 1.3 million unsuccessful attempts that year. Talking about suicide can be difficult because of the stigma attached to it. Many people feel awkward and unsure of what to say. The exception is when it happens to someone with a seemingly perfect life. Such is the case with Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.
We discuss and rally together for many causes, such as cancer and heart disease. But this is not the case with suicide. Everything gets swept under the rug out of fear and discomfort. Many survivors are abandoned by friends who don’t know how to deal with the situation. Survivors worry that people will judge and shame them if they open up about their affliction. And, when they do open up, they become overwhelmed and feel bombarded by questions and misunderstanding. People sometimes shy away from survivors because they feel anxious or worried that they’ll say the wrong thing. And let’s not forget about the loved ones of the deceased, who often feel shame for missing signs or not doing enough to help.
Recently, families who have lost loved ones to suicide are trying to lessen the stigma by bringing more awareness to mental illness. For example, many families are being more open and forthcoming with details in obituaries, rather than omitting the cause of death. They include details of their loved one’s struggles with mental illness. Many parents are shamed after the suicide of a child and made to feel like they weren’t good enough or did something wrong. Hopefully, in light of these new societal shifts, more people will take the time to discuss and learn about mental health.
You can find stories on all social media platforms about people who have attempted and survived suicide. There’s been a 25% increase in calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They receive calls both from people feeling suicidal and from the loved ones of people who are struggling. Just remember that it’s important to reach out, develop a support system, and open the lines of communication. Talking about suicide and getting involved in its prevention is key to breaking the silence and ending the stigma.