Updated: Sep 16, 2019
- The cause of death of 800,000 people each year
- The second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally
- Every 40 seconds someone dies of this
- LGB youth are 5 times more likely to attempt this
- 40% of transgender adults reported attempting this
- Indigenous people are 2 times more likely to die by this
Do any of these facts make you want to take action? By the time you read this, according to the 40 second fact, at least 5 people will have died by suicide. The days where suicide is a taboo topic need to be left behind. Starting the conversation is key towards lowering these numbers and you can be a part of that.
Today on Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day, we need to honor those who we have lost to such a devastating illness and celebrate and help those who are still fighting the battle today. It is not an easy battle to win, but when you do, it is worth it. Life is all we have, so it is time we fought for it.
With media covering celebrity suicides from Linkin Park’s, Chester Bennington, to Anthony Bourdain, it is often hard to avoid hearing about it, but at the same time people aren’t really talking about why this is happening. The frequent “that’s terrible” or “how sad” to give condolences will not change the way we give support to those struggling with suicidal ideation. If we continue to blame the fame, the political conditions, and other people (as seen in the problematic representation of suicide inNetflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why) for suicides, we will never be able to fully support those who are struggling with mental illnesses that are causing suicidal ideation. We have to talk about mental health!
Often times people’s answers to a conversation around suicide is “I just don’t understand it.” Which is an understandable response, there is no simple reason why any one individual decides to take their own life, but there is an overarching reason which can lower the number of suicides. Mental health is only beginning to come into consideration in politics, educational institutions, and companies within the past ten to fifteen years, and this trend needs to continue.
About forty years ago, if someone had AIDS it was ignored or became the subject of shame. Today, it is something that people live with all over the world. Why is this? The medical industry improved and people started talking about it. Because of this, society as a whole understands it more clearly and can mentally support one another through such an illness. Today if someone takes their own life, it is often hidden, brushed aside, or avoided in conversation, especially for many marginalized communities. In the Islamic community, suicide is a sin, and may bring shame to a family, thus the conversation is often ignored. It is time this changes. Psychologists and Neuroscientists are starting to understand a lot more about what happens when someone has depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, etc. now it is time for family and friends to provide support and resources to those who may be struggling, because it may save their life.
With people like Logic, performing his song in 2017, called 1-800-273-8255 on the VMA’s, with CEO’s of big companies like Johnson & Johnson and Bank of America finally talking to their employees about mental health, and schools beginning to allow students to take mental health days, we are going in the right direction. Anyone with a platform should be encouraged to pay attention to these rising statistics listed above, and do anything to make a difference, whether that be give out resources, or change legislation, using your voice may be the biggest tool.
What you can do at home
Grieving a loved one who died by suicide is difficult. It is a very confusing process, from understanding why they did it, to questioning your own role in their life, it can be challenging to get through. Something that needs to be recognized is that it was not your fault, not in the slightest. The people we lose to suicide are battling inner demons. Whether that be depression or suicidal thoughts related to other struggles, it is a mental illness that took over, not you. Please know there are resources for you as well, grief counselors, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and any therapist will be able to help talk you through this battle.
If you personally are struggling, please reach out to anyone. Your friends, family, teachers, colleagues, and even acquaintances. You are worthy of the fight, and there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.
If you know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out. A good way to go about talking to them is the V-A-R method.
Validate their feelings - let them know that how they feel is okay, and that you believe them
Appreciate them and their fight - let them know that speaking up is one of the hardest parts and they are so strong for doing so. Thank them for sharing and let them know they are not alone.
Refer them to more support - encourage them to reach out for more professional help, and if you feel comfortable, offer to do it with them. This can be calling the suicide lifeline or referring them to a therapist or practice that may help them.
If you personally are not struggling or do not know someone who is struggling, it is still very important for you to know these resources. You also have a huge role to play in the future of mental health. You can start the conversation or change the conversation around suicide. Anytime it comes up, make sure it is being discussed in a healthy and informative way. Suicide is not selfish, it is a battle that people are fighting, and we need to respect that because we don’t know what battles people are fighting. If a friend ever uses the term “kys” or “kms” which stand for, killing myself or kill yourself, don’t be afraid to correct them or ask them if they are being serious and if they need help. Correcting these colloquial terms for younger generations can most definitely help start the conversation around better mental health at a young age. Those acronyms should not be used as a joke.
Another pattern we can correct is saying “commit suicide.” Taking your life was termed committing suicide because up until the mid-20th century it was illegal to do so, and in some countries it still is. This is not the right way to talk about suicide, it is not a crime, and speaking as if it is a crime can hurt those who lost loved ones to suicide. It also ignores the fact that suicide is often the result of a mental illness. We don’t want to diminish the fact that people are battling these illnesses everyday, and that suicidal thoughts cross their mind is a symptom of said illnesses. The best phrase to use is “died by suicide.” This will help change the conversation.
There is this debated myth that talking about suicide will cause “copycat” suicides, however, as long as it is talked about in the correct way, in an open and educational format, the conversation will in fact save lives. After Logic’s powerful and emotional performance of 1800-273-8255 in 2017, that hotline number had 50% more traffic than normal. This conversation saved lives, gave people strength, and promoted resources. You can help, start talking and keep fighting. This life is worth living.
Ayana and Suicide Prevention Day
Ayana is here to give people who need it an outlet. We want anyone who needs help to be able to find a therapist who understands them and all of their identity. Our hope is that this will also help lower suicide rates, especially those among marginalized communities. No one deserves to fight the mental battle alone.