World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is September 10th – World Suicide Prevention Day! It’s a reminder that people are suffering in silence, feeling like there is no point in living.

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But whoever you are and wherever you may be, just know someone cares for you. Even though you feel lonely or you think no one will miss you, please try to reach out for help. I am here for you as are other people and groups around the world.

The stigma around mental health is slowly but surely fading away. It is becoming part of the conversation. And with that change, we can get to the point where we reduce and ultimately prevent suicides.

Here are some tips for you and for those who are contemplating suicide:

Spotting the Warning Signs of Potential Suicide

According to the Beyond Blue support service in Australia, there are several signs to look for in people who are considering taking their life:

  • Substance abuse
  • Isolation from friends and family

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Besides developing your observation skills, you also need to cultivate good listening skills. After all, underneath the usual conversations is a constant desperate plea for help.

Make yourself available to others and go beyond common greetings. Dig deeper and get to hear that they are doing okay.

What about you? How can you take care of yourself to ensure you no longer think about suicide? Keep reading to find out.

Taking Care of Yourself

Life is difficult but you can navigate through it with some changes to your lifestyle. Here are tips on what you can do:

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These simple tips are just the beginning of the journey. Mental health is a lifelong issue. I’ll be praying for you and your loved ones. Be Blessed.

 

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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.

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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?

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  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.

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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.

11 Million People Seriously Considering Suicide

In 2009, 8 million Americans wanted to take their own lives. Fast forward to 2014 and that figure is now over 11 million people. Why do so many people want to die?

Statistics should always be taken with a caveat. Nevertheless, a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2012 showed that one out of every six students in high school thought about suicide. These kids are supposed to be the future of the nation and the world, yet they have already given up on life.

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It is easy to write off teen statistics in suicide as being linked to their young years and inexperience. However, this goes to show that young people are suffering in silence, with parents and leaders failing to spot the signs of a struggling child. For those kids, there doesn’t appear to be anyone who can give them direction and encouragement. Perhaps we can do more.

Of great concern is the fact that, this year, over 150,000 young people have been treated in hospital for self-inflicted injuries. Were they planning to take it further and commit suicide? Was this self-harming meant to create a painful physical wound to distract from the pain felt inside?

Young people are suffering physically and mentally. The internet brings with it a new set of global bullies that can overwhelm a young mind. The parents, teachers and leaders in society need to provide guidance and encouragement to the young people that life is worth fighting for. But wait, older people are committing suicide too!

While the youth are facing bullies, falling grades, and increasing unemployment, older people are faced with the realities of bankruptcy, recession, mortgages, mental health illnesses, marital woes, and social and networking pressures. The recent suicide by actor and comedian, Robin Williams, highlights the pressures that even successful people may be facing in silence. And according to a report in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the rate of suicides rose by 10,000 during the recession.

These are just some of the problems that older people are going through. Are we getting weaker in spirit? Where is the resilience that unites us in dark times? Where are the people who lend a helping hand even when it’s not been asked of them? Or is it that we have isolated a select few, who, feeling abandoned, have tried to face their battles on their own and failed, thus resorting to suicide?

Whatever the answers to those questions may be, it is clear that we have a bigger problem than we care to admit. With the increasing threat of wars and economic constraints, the increasing toll on relationships and life in general can lead to a greater desire for people considering suicide to make it a reality. When entertainment no longer provides an escape for the tortured mind, suicide will become an enticing possibility.

Life can be hard at times. At other times, life can be extremely difficult. Within those moments of pain and hardships lies a greater meaning and lesson that we must try to learn or impart on young people. Those who have overcome their thoughts of taking their lives feel stronger for what they went through. We can overcome. We just need to change our mindset. As Phil Donahue once said, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”.

Let us stand with one another and try to overcome our problems.

World Suicide Day? Don’t Mention It!

Just watching the entire furore over the Oscar Pistorius case verdict today sheds a sad spotlight over what society considers important. There has been little focus on the sad tragedy of the death of Reeva Steenkamp due to the ‘obvious celebrity/famous person’ connection of the alleged culprit.

There was also another important day yesterday: the World Suicide Day. The thing is….not many people noticed it.

Where was the fuss? Where was the commotion? Where was the media fanfare over such an important day? To many people scattered across the globe, yesterday was a day like any other. You wake up, go to work or school, improve relationships, make new friends and associates, and squeeze in a movie or series later on in the night. There was little to no mention of a day that highlights not just the unnecessary loss of a life, but also the issues of mental health, depression and personally overwhelming circumstances in life. Here was an opportunity to bring to the fore the problems that lead people to feel that taking their lives is more favourable than living. Alas, not many cared.

Is it because people don’t want to talk about suicide?

The tragic passing of actor and comedian, Robin Williams, brought a new focus on issues to do with suicide. There was an outpouring of messages of sadness at his unexpected death. The world learnt of the mental health problems that the late actor was facing and his struggles with depression. There was also an inquiry into the kinds of drugs that were prescribed to him by the doctors as the medication was said to cause ‘suicidal thoughts’. Yet, the world now seems to have moved on quickly from such a sad moment to focus on other issues.

The reality is that the only people who focus on issues of mental health, depression and suicide are either medical professionals, people suffering from mental health issues and the people close to those suffering from mental health issues. The rest of the world is silent on the matter.

Even now as the Oscar Pistorius case continues, only a few people have mentioned the potential of him considering suicide if he is convicted. His mental health issues have been reported on before, but the spotlight is now focusing on a ‘celebrity’ charged with murder.

Suicide is a stigma. People don’t want to talk about it. Regardless of these views, it is time to wake up to the reality that there are people who are suffering silently every day and they are looking for a way out. It’s not about being a coward. There is a lot more that goes on in the minds of those who eventually turn to suicide. Even people who seem to have a perfect life with lots of money, friends, children, and praise at work, commit suicide. It all starts in the mind. This is why mental health awareness should be an integral focus for our society as we move on into the future.

The world is constantly changing around us and there are people going through problems and circumstances that promote a negative outlook on life. Mental health issues don’t just arise out of thin air. Instead, they develop over time. The key, then, is for people to focus more on others’ well-being and try to reach out to those close to them in order to provide a platform through which someone can confront their mental demons.

The World Suicide Day is a day for all of us to try to change the world by changing the perception people have over mental health, depression and suicide. There are people contemplating suicide right now who desperately need someone to speak a word that would pull them out of their despair. So the next time I tell you, “Let’s talk about suicide”, don’t tell me, “Don’t mention it!”.