Are Suicide ‘Awareness Days’ a Waste of Time?

Tomorrow, September 10th, is the World Suicide Prevention Day. This day is sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to raise awareness on suicide.

Despite being held for over a decade now, there are growing concerns that the World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) initiative has done little to address the scourge of suicide worldwide. Moreover, there are those who feel that the conversation about depression and suicide should not be restricted to a day or a week, but rather, addressed throughout the year.

boy-1636731_1280

Organizations that deal with suicide every day of the year know better than anyone that more and more people are taking their lives. Unfortunately, this problem is not being aired in the media or discussed in communities. There are many families struggling in silence because they have lost someone to suicide and they have no one to talk about this problem with.

Worse still, there are many people contemplating suicide right now and they have no one to turn to.

According to the Samaritans, an organization whose goal is to help people and to reduce incidences of suicide, more than 800,000 people die from suicide worldwide annually. For example, in the UK, more than 6,000 people take their lives every year. In the US, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that more than 40,000 Americans die by suicide yearly. These statistics, however, are only about those who have died and don’t show the number of failed suicide attempts. When all those figures are tabulated, it shows there are a lot of people suffering from mental health issues.

The good thing about setting aside a date in the calendar year to address issues of suicide is that some people will get to hear a message of hope and possibly change their mind about taking their own lives. Secondly, it gives parents, family members, friends and co-workers of people who have committed suicide an avenue through which they can raise awareness and share their personal experiences on the painful loss of their loved ones. These experiences might inspire and inform others on preventing suicide in their families.

Criticisms of ‘Awareness Days’

Even though the concept of WSPD is to highlight the scourge of suicide in our world, these awareness events are lacking in some key areas:

  1. Do the people who are likely to commit suicide attend these events?

Maybe there have been occasions whereby someone at risk for committing suicide attended these events and got some help. But chances are that the people with suicidal thoughts are probably at home, hiding from the world, feeling lonely and isolated. They probably think that they are useless and that no one will miss them when they die. They think that the world would probably be better off without them.

If these awareness days are being held once a year, what chance do they have of reaching all the people who are suffering in silence? These events do have a ripple effect and more people do get to learn about suicide. But how many of those are actually having a word with the people who are contemplating their death?

girl-863686_1280

  1. The awareness days seem contrived, vain and flawed

One of the criticisms of awareness days is that people merely participate in the activities but the message doesn’t get across. There is no ‘transformation’ of minds.

Imagine a person who was doing some shopping and is now walking out of the store with a lot of coins in their pocket. Outside is a person with a bowl begging for some money. What will likely happen? The person will dig out some of the coins and give it to the beggar. Inasmuch as people like to help, sometimes people do what is convenient. There’s not much thought to it.

That example brings to mind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral in 2014. While the challenge was to raise money for an important cause – to treat the neurodegenerative disease called Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – many people used it for publicity or simply because it was trending worldwide. At times, some of the genuine participants had to take a moment to remind others to actually donate money and not just pour ice water on themselves and call it a day.

There is a suspicion that some people only help so that they can feel good about themselves. For others, it looks like they just want to add a new cause or activity to their CV.

Many people who are suffering from depression, mental health issues and those with suicidal thoughts want to feel the theme of the awareness days; which is to connect, communicate and show care to those who are struggling. Unfortunately, these three key points rarely occur at these one-time events.

  1. There doesn’t seem to be a clear plan or purpose

Do people know what to do during Suicide Prevention awareness days? There are many people who are passionate about helping those who are suffering but they don’t know what to do or where to go. How are you supposed to respond when someone tells you they are not okay?

Isn’t it just sad that there is one ‘special’ day where people get to ask others how they are doing? Where are these people when someone is overwhelmed by life’s circumstances? Where are they when someone is feeling lonely, hiding from the world and is hoping to die? Caring for only one day is simply not enough. It’s like when people donate a lot of toys, food and clothes but only during Christmas. What about the rest of the year?

So, what is needed then?

According to the IASP, “Suicide is complex. It usually occurs gradually, progressing from suicidal thoughts, to planning, to attempting suicide and finally dying by suicide.”

Talking and raising awareness about suicide for one day is simply not enough. Here are some of the things needed to help people who are thinking about taking their lives:

      • better mental health services.
      • connection with others. The feeling that people truly empathize and not just sympathize.
      • easier access to mental health counselors and suicide hotlines/helplines.
      • better campaigns to remind people throughout the year that others are suffering with mental health issues and need love.
      • donations for mental health charities.
      • better educational programs on dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts in our homes and communities.
      • school and college events discussing mental health issues.
      • more funding for research into treatment and medication.

The most important point of all is that people who want to commit suicide simply need a reason for living. They need to get to the point where they choose life.

clasped-hands-541849_1280

In one social media campaign against suicide, the hashtag ‘IKeptLiving’ has been used by people to share how their lives were transformed when they chose to live instead of committing suicide.

In many other instances, it is not simply a matter of deciding to live. There are other mental health problems or the use of medication that can cause people’s suicidal ideation to be acted upon. These are some of the people who need to be identified and helped.

You have an opportunity to go out and spread the message about mental health and suicide. These one day awareness events are not enough to turn the tide against suicide. I challenge you today to start caring conversations with people. As I always say, you never know whose life you might save.

Advertisements

Do You Have ‘Bounce Back’ Ability?

I was recently surprised by someone’s actions. One day they were sad, not psyched up to do anything – either feeling lazy or just unwilling to get out of bed; then the next day they were buzzing around full of energy.

It might not be a remarkable feat since many people do that and have done that before. What piqued my curiosity is how some people are able to pick themselves up while others wallow in their sadness till it trickles into other areas of their lives. Next thing you know, they are sucking the joy out of an engaging conversation or they are complaining about how life has been unfair to them.

Which person are you: the one that wallows or the one that picks themselves up? Where do these positive people get this bounce back ability and how can you get this trait today?

trampoline-71548_1280

Life is full of roses…and thorns!

I have said it before, life can be difficult. You hear all these motivation gurus say that the world is your mirror and if you are being negative then you will attract negative stuff into your life. In truth, life just happens. Even the most positive people get unexpected curveballs in their lives.

For instance, you get a phone call from the office telling you to come and pick up your stuff because you’ve been laid off. Then they insult you by saying it’s not that you were doing a bad job, it’s just the economy is in shambles. How do you respond to that? What if you have a family and they were counting on that pay check? What if you had just taken a loan and now you don’t have the income to pay it back? What if you had a medical condition and being employed helped you tap into the health insurance cover your employer provided. Where do you get the money now?

While all this is hypothetical, there are people who have gone through such problems; probably even worse. It is in stories such as these that you discover whether you have a bounce back ability or not. Some people lie down and complain about the problems they are facing. They go around looking for an audience to hear their sob stories. In time, they refine their stories to the point that deep down they enjoy sharing it. Other people try to get back up as quickly as possible.

Here is how you can bounce back:

  1. Don’t let yourself wallow

I’ve read before that if you are feeling sad you should allow yourself to feel sad and that it will eventually ebb away. Some of us look for every excuse to listen to our favourite sad songs. The musicians just seem to understand exactly what we are going through. But isn’t life too short to spend it being sad? Wouldn’t you rather be smiling?

Recently, I’ve discovered this principle that while feelings cause actions, actions can also cause feelings. For instance, if you are sad (feeling) you are likely to listen to sad music (action). However, if you listen to uplifting music (action) you are going to be happier (feeling). Try it out.

Writers and people in other creative professions understand this concept well. If you don’t feel like writing, you will stare at your Microsoft Word for hours. But if you decide to start writing something anyway, you will start feeling psyched up to write even more than you had originally planned and the words will keep flowing.

  1. Take out the emotion and understand your problem

Simply put, you can’t fight against what you don’t understand. For those who’ve had a big problem such as being fired unexpectedly, it usually comes as a hammer blow. Your emotions are all over the place. What’s worse, fear starts to kick in spinning all types of tales about your imminent demise. It is a bad place to be mentally.

If you can somehow strip away all the emotions you are feeling and confront your problem with solutions in mind, you will be able to come to terms with your situation.

For instance, if you’ve lost your job, here are some ideas of what you can do:

  • Figure out what you are good at e.g. perhaps this is your chance to become a freelancer in writing, a consultant, a businessman, a salesman, develop a product from home etc.
  • If your quality of work led to you being fired, come up with ideas on how to tackle that problem so that it doesn’t threaten your next job.
  • Could you go back to school to improve your credentials?
  • Had you been planning to take a break from work to go on a sabbatical or extended holiday?
  • Do you have a connected network that can help you get a new job?

These are all ideas that can take the emotion out and help you focus on solutions.

  1. Go for counselling

There is a stigma around seeking support through counselling sessions no matter what problem you are facing.

Counselling should not always be used as a last resort.

It helps you get out of your head and see your problems from a different perspective. You get to speak to someone who is concerned about your well-being and wants to see you get back on your feet again. Most importantly, you get to share your thoughts and fears in a non-judgemental environment. Going for counselling can help you bounce back sooner than you would have if you did it alone.

Plus, it doesn’t always have to be a professional counsellor. Maybe you have someone who cares for you and always gives you an ear when you need advice. Seek them out and share with them. As I always say, be there for others also. If you see someone who you think is struggling with a problem, reach out to them and offer to help them find solutions.

boxers-919232_1280

  1. Take it on the Chin

Unfortunately, the more you go through negative situations and come out of them ‘alive’, you build character which helps you every time you face adversity. Bounce back ability is a learned trait.

What happened the first time you fell off your bike? You had to get up and try again till you finally got it. That is true of life. You will face different tough situations and each time you will have to decide whether you will shy away or you will take on the problem head on. The more you face your demons, the greater your bounce back ability will become.

  1. Have faith

I am reminded of the story of the origin of the Christian song ‘It is well with my soul’. This man put his family on a ship and was going to meet up with them later but then received word that the ship had capsized. What a devastating moment! But do you know what happened when his ship got to the spot where his family had died? He wept for them and wrote “It is well; it is well with my soul”. You can imagine all the pain he felt at that moment. Yet he spoke from a point of faith that everything will be okay.

It would be a lie if I said that you won’t have scars; that you won’t face overwhelming battles. That is just part of life. The key is to have faith that everything will be okay in the end. As motivational speaker Les Brown says, “It is much easier to have faith when everything is going well.” But it is in those moments when you are afraid, when you are in pain, when you are beaten down that you have to find a way to have faith. Once you lay hold of it and believe in a positive outcome, you are able to cope with whatever you are facing.

All these tips will help you as you develop your bounce back ability. Just remember, even fighters who are champions get hit from time to time. The only difference is they keep coming back over and over again until their problem (the other fighter) is defeated. You can bounce back as well!

 

World Mental Health Day: Key Points From Social Media

Today is World Mental Health Day!

It is a day to raise awareness on mental health illnesses. For others, it is celebration of triumph over diseases and conditions that strike at the heart of our being.

bless-you-726885_1920

Many people probably didn’t notice this day or even know much about it. That sounds eerily similar to the indifference observed when it comes to issues of mental health.

But you know what, that’s okay. Sometimes, unless you have been touched by a situation, a person, a condition, or a disease, it is unlikely that you will care a lot (or at all) about a certain issue. That’s why it is important to speak up and let others know what’s going on. Here is where social media comes in.

Key Points from Social Media about Mental Health

The interesting lesson from today is that a lot of people DO CARE about mental health issues. Just browsing around social media, you realize that you are just one voice among many; hoping that other people will awaken to the reality that mental illnesses are among us and there are those struggling everyday with such issues.

Here is a list of some of the key points that people shared:

  1. Mental Health is just as important as Physical Health

One of the greatest frustrations for those who know about mental health issues is that people don’t think it matters as much as physical health. Check your blood pressure; check your heart beat. But no one is wondering about the mind.

medical-781422_1920

The brain can get sick just like any other part of the body.

Just look around the internet and you will see more “work out your body” pieces and few “mental workout programs”. It’s just not as important.

We are here to say “Mental Health is Very Important”.

  1. Mental Illness does not discriminate

It does not matter who you are, what you do, where you are from, who you know or how much you workout, mental illness can affect anyone.

family-911293_1920

Knowing this should make people stop all the name calling, shaming and stigmatizing because mental illness can affect you as well as your friends and loved ones.

  1. People should stop trivializing Mental Health

warning-light-510558_1920

Have you ever heard a statement that sounds something like this: “I didn’t have anything to do today; I’m sooo [sic] depressed”? This is just one of the things people do. They don’t understand that there is a world of difference between simply being sad (or bored) and being depressed.

There were other comments on social media such as “Bipolar disorder is not being moody”. These are just a few examples of how people trivialize issues that affect many lives. If people had any idea what others go through – how much pain and sadness others feel as they are struggling with mental illnesses – then they would show more compassion.

  1. You are NOT Alone

I’ve said it before but when you are going through a mental health issue, it is easy to feel that you are the only one suffering; That life chose to punish you.

person-409127_1920

The reality is that there are many other people from all over the world going through their own version of pain. Like you, they have had to suffer in silence. When they tried to raise their voices, they were shamed. People just don’t understand until they have walked a mile in your shoes.

But fear not; you are not alone. There are many people who have a sense of what you are going through. There are many organizations and groups geared toward raising awareness and helping to find solutions for mental problems.

  1. Take care of your health

medic-563425_1920

Another point was that people need to take responsibility for their health. Go for check ups, analyze your family’s mental health history, take the medicine prescribed to you for your mental illness and educate yourself on mental health.

  1. There is a lot of support out there

Who do you turn to when your life is in turmoil? As I have said before, it is good to have a support system around you.

The beauty of our interconnected world means that you can join support groups online and you can meet people going through similar mental illnesses and exchange ideas.

hand-846092_1920

It was also great to see comments from people who have had mental health problems encouraging others and saying things like “You are not alone” and “Things get better eventually”.

Take heart and believe that you will find a way to manage your condition or cope with a loved one’s struggle with illness. It will not be easy, but you can find a way.

Takeaway

It is great to see a lot of people united in spreading the message of love for those with mental health problems. No matter what problem you have, do not be ashamed; it was not your choice to become mentally ill.

We love you and wish you well.

Suicide: The Power of Words

Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

hands-423794_1280

In recent weeks, the hashtag #JusticeForConrad has been trending. If you are not familiar with its origins, it’s about a girl, Michelle Carter, who is accused of involuntary manslaughter for allegedly convincing her ‘friend/boyfriend’ Conrad Roy III to commit suicide.

Background

According to news reports, Conrad took his own life in July last year. It is said that he had struggled with depression. If you read from numerous news sources, he was a nice young man. The only issue was that he had suicidal thoughts which ultimately led him down the wrong path.

As is the case with suicides, he left a lot of devastated people behind. The toll it has taken on the family has been immense and we always sympathize with those who have gone through such pain.

Unfortunately, the family has been put through more pain due to an ongoing case against Michelle Carter who is accused of allegedly encouraging Conrad to take his own life.

A series of text messages are being used to show that Carter played a role in Conrad’s suicide. According to an article on wtvr.com, New Bedford Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn said that the accused’s words were “harmful, offensive and likely to cause an immediate, violent act”.

For now, the case is still ongoing.

The Power of Words

If you were to do a quick check online, you will encounter a lot of comments about what did or did not happen in the Conrad Roy case. It is there that we discover how much power we have with our words.

notebook-867707_1280

Through the ages and in many literary works, many people have acknowledged the power of words. Words can bring healing, peace, and happiness or tear others down and cause great pain.

Here are some quotes on words:

“Words are the keys to the heart.”
Chinese proverb

“Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them for a lifetime.”
Dale Carnegie (1888-1955)

“If we could measure the damage to corporations from gossip, it might be more than the GNP of the Third World!”
Harvey Mackay
Author of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Pushing The Envelope

“Speak when you are angry– and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
Laurence J. Peter (1919 – 1988)
Educator, author of The Peter Principle

“The language we use to communicate with one another is like a knife. In the hands of a careful and skilled surgeon, a knife can work to do great good. But in the hands of a careless or ignorant person, a knife can cause great harm.”
Exactly as it is with our words.”
Source Unknown

Here is one from the Bible:

Proverbs 18:21 (KJV) – Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

It can take you a lot of hours to go through all the quotes dealing with the effect words have on us and on others.

Speak Love

If you’ve ever had a problem, you will notice how quick people are to give you their views on what you should do. In a situation where you are actually conscious of the power everything you say can have on another person’s life, you will realize that counselling others is not easy.

When you factor in issues of mental health and depression, you will realize that it is always important to choose your words carefully. I have been in situations where it was important to speak a word of life into a person who had given up on living. It is scary how powerful words can be.

Af0sF2OS5S5gatqrKzVP_Silhoutte

A good approach is to do everything from a place of Love.

I do not know where you are right now. I do not know where you have been. I do not know how your life has been like up to this moment. I do not know what joys you’ve experienced nor the pain you have suffered. I do not know what your beliefs are.

But what I do know is that you are special and you are important!

The world needs you to be you and to give of yourself in love and service to others. I’ve said this many times, but no matter what you are going through, never give up. Everything always works out!

Try to seek out and spend time with those who speak words from a point of love. May you also show others the same love with your words.

Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect whether he chooses to be so or not. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Call for Help: Counselling Resource

Any time you are struggling with the obstacles in your life, you might look around and ask yourself, “Who has got my back?“. It can be particularly depressing to discover that you are overwhelmed but there is no one willing to give you just a few minutes of their time so that you can share your problems with them and possibly find a solution.

despair-513528_1280

The team at Counselling Directory believe they can be of assistance.

According to one of the team members, Carl Burton, in “2005”, he “watched a close friend struggle to find the information they were looking for when they were in
desperate need of emotional support”. “This was when we realized there was a need for a service bringing
together the information required to help individuals find a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist in their local
area.”

“Counselling Directory is a confidential service that encourages those in distress to seek help. The directory
contains information on many different types of distress, as well as articles, news, and events. To ensure the
professionalism of our website, all counsellors have provided us with qualifications and insurance cover or
proof of membership with a professional body.”

Here is the link to their website: http://www.counselling-directory.
org.uk.

I am not affiliated with Counselling Directory in any way and I haven’t personally tested their service. Carl says they are willing to help, therefore, I will leave you to do your own research and to make the decision whether you want to try them out.

If you have been suffering for a while, please do not give up. Life can be difficult at times but there is hope that the future will be brighter than your struggles of today.

I hope you get well soon. All the best.