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

Happy New Year!!!

Sometimes it feels like a whole year has just flown by. But in truth, a lot happened last year; you experienced more, learned more, and became more.

card-1081735_1280

With the start of 2016,  I am wishing you a great year filled with blessings, lessons, growth, peace and joy.

If you have a blog, may this be the year that you work out new ways of engaging with your audience and meeting their needs. If you are a reader, may you discover endless ‘mind riches’ through all the blogs you follow and those that you will discover.

To all those focused on mental health, may you learn more about the subject and about yourself. May you gain valuable insights that may help you help those who are experiencing mental health problems. I hope to play a role in that journey.

woman-570883_1280

Life is going to throw a lot of surprises at you this year; some good, others bad. But all in all, the most important thing will be the state of your mind and how well you take care of it. Please do not forget to also look out for the well-being of others.

All the best to you in your lifelong pursuit of happiness.

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.

Example that Choosing to Live is Better!

I was combing through the BBC Website when I came across an article that caught my eye. It was something familiar to me, in a sense, because I had heard a little bit about this man who does amazing things despite what most people would call “A major handicap”. You see, the man in question is Nick Vujicic; otherwise known as “The man without limbs”.

If you’ve ever had an injury to your arm or leg, you know how helpless you feel and how you constantly want to curse your bad luck. You just can’t wait till the day the doctor declares that you are healed. Now stop for a second and imagine having never had those hands or legs. How would you even survive?

child-438373_1280

Nick Vujicic’s Story

Nicholas James Vujicic was born with a physical disability which doctors admitted was very rare. He has therefore lived the whole 32 years of his life without arms or legs.

Not many people would have made it through all those years without – what many people feel are – the necessary tools for survival in an already difficult world. Indeed, not even young Nick expected to survive with the reality of his life. He was born “different” and despite all the love he received from his family and friends, he already felt disadvantaged. This cloud of negativity hung over him for a long time and he became depressed. At only 10 years of age, he attempted to commit suicide. Thankfully, he failed.

The struggle to cope with his physical, mental and emotional struggle took a great toll on the young man as it would for many of us. Though life offered him moments of joy, it was the bad moments which really weighed heavily on him. Therefore, he tried to commit suicide a few more times. Thankfully, again, he failed each time.

At age 17, he was inspired to become a public speaker and it was during his first attempt that a sobbing girl’s gratitude changed his outlook on life. As Nick says in one of his websites attitudeisaltitude.com, “I realized that we all need love and hope and that I was in a unique position to share that with people around the world”.

Choosing Your Attitude toward Life

background-681969_1280

Nick now has several organizations such as LifeWithoutLimbs and AttitudeisAltitude which seek to help people in their lives through inspiration and by providing perspective. It is by no means a stretch to say that Nick Vujicic has helped millions of people. After all, how would you respond if someone handicapped was doing more in his life than you were with all your limbs and faculties intact? Yet, here is Nick, who can swim, type, speak in front of thousands of people, and even goes sky diving. He is happily married and has a child, just like any “normal” person.

Nick’s circumstances would have overwhelmed many people but he chose to have a positive attitude even when negative thoughts threatened to derail his life.

Many people give up when life continually throws obstacles their way. No one can stand in another man’s shoes and claim they would respond positively to any negative circumstances. The interesting thing though, is that positive attitudes and unshakeable willpower trump life’s obstacles any time.

It is difficult when dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide. But as Nick Vujicic shows, your life is important. Just like him, you can turn your negative circumstances into a story that can inspire others to choose life over death.

Just from following Nick’s example, you can lay claim to the attitude that the future holds something positive for your life. So choose life today!

Negative Thoughts That Lead to Suicide Pt.1

We have all perhaps come across comments from those who attempted suicide and survived. Those comments go a little bit like this:

“I felt that it would be for the best if I just died.”

“It’s all my fault; I deserve to die.”

“No one is going to miss me anyway.”

You get the idea.

Some of these statements are usually borne from frustration, trauma and mental health issues such as depression.

It could be heard from someone who was isolated; someone who did not have any support system to see them through whatever crisis was engulfing their lives.

The statements could be from someone who had given up. Someone who had tried everything to succeed in life but things never worked out as they had been envisioned.

All these thoughts, frustrations, traumas, and mental health diseases lead to this one question: What is the point of living?

thinking
What is Really Going On?

All things in life emanate from the cradle of our minds. Our minds are powerful, and we rise and fall depending on whether our thoughts are positive or negative. At the root of all suicides, there is a pattern of negative thoughts that precede them.

Here are some of the thoughts that are prevalent:

  1. “No one loves me”

We all – in different ways – crave love from those close to our hearts. Unfortunately, sometimes we feel that our love is unrequited. It’s such a painful feeling to bear. In turn, we might start harbouring thoughts of how unworthy of love we are. It seems as though we don’t exist; we are all alone.

Those who have been in this situation will understand how easy it is to crawl back to the ‘safety’ of our minds and isolate ourselves from the unloving world. No one is ever wise to the shadows that lurk in the mind though. As much as our mind is a creative force, it can also be an all-consuming power.

As author Christopher Paolini once said, “The monsters of the mind are far worse than those that actually exist.”

Insidiously, the mind will ravage its victim every waking moment till there is only one possible way out: Suicide.

The Truth: Sometimes people don’t know how to express love. Others think it is enough to tell someone that they love them. The reality is that what you do and how someone else feels is always the difference. You can show love to someone but they don’t feel it.

There is a saying that “If you want love, then, you should give love.” Fight the urge to retreat to the recesses of your mind. Branch out and seek out people you can show love. Tell those around you that you’ve been feeling unloved and you will see them make attempts to show you love. Give them a chance to love you the way you feel you need to be loved. Love someone else the way you desire to be loved.

In life, the intangible things we yearn for are never given out to us; we learn them. If you want patience, you will have to learn to be patient with someone who makes you want to pull your hair out. If you want love, you will unfortunately have to go through a painful process to learn what love is.

As author and self-help expert, Stephen Richards, once said, “It sometimes takes a state of solitude to bring to mind the real power of companionship.”

But when you do learn, you will be better for it. Your life will be better for it. So give love and give life a chance.

  1. “No one will miss me”

One of the negative thoughts that lead to suicide is based on the idea that no one cares what happens to you. In truth, people spend most of their time dealing with their own struggles to the point that they don’t notice what other people are going through.

We are all different. There are those who seem capable of dealing with any problem plaguing their lives. For others, however, the breaking point comes sooner rather than later. What may seem like a minor problem to you can appear to others as an overwhelming mountain of pain. As you know, when you get to that point in life when you can only see obstacles instead of solutions, then you are in big trouble.

This “no one cares” mentality is at the heart of many problems in life. It is the basis for the R U OK? Campaign. The campaign is about asking people to make an effort to listen and share with others in order to establish whether there are those who are not coping well with the pressures of life.

Many people suffer in silence. When suicidal thoughts enter your mind, you look around and think to yourself, “If anyone cared about me, they would know how much pain I’ve been in recently.” Hence it leads to a simplistic portrayal in the mind that: If no one cares then no one will miss me.

Bad Analogy

The Truth: The saying that, “You don’t know what you have until you lose it” applies to not only things, but also to people. In our world today, we are faced with multiple distractions and responsibilities that it gets to the point where we don’t give as much time to the people we love as we should.

I’d wager that if everyone was asked, they would probably say that they can do better in terms of spending more quality time with their friends and loved ones. But everyone reverts to the excuse that there is just not enough time.

The pain of losing a loved one takes a great toll on people. Every day, you wish you could get just a few minutes with that person for one last time. The feelings of guilt are overwhelming; you pore over every moment in your life that you could have spent more time with your loved one but didn’t.

If you ever get to a point in life where you feel that no one would miss you if you died, then take a moment and rethink it. Then rethink it again and again and again till the only other option you have is to ask those people to their faces whether they would miss you. And, God forbid, if they ever said they would not miss you, then there is someone in your future that you are meant to meet who will have lost the opportunity to know you, to love you and to care for you the way you would want. Your actions now will affect many lives in the future.

You are here in this world for a reason. Everything you do impacts many lives across the world in imperceptible ways. The world is already different because you are here. You the individual. You are IMPORTANT!

Even if the people closest to you don’t see your value, you are valuable to the world. You have something to contribute. Even if it takes time for you to discover what that contribution is, eventually you will make a difference to someone’s life. The world is already different because you are here. You are important!

To be continued…