It’s World Suicide Prevention Day, and we need to talk about it.
An old friend of mine committed suicide recently.
She was someone I knew in high school and we hadn’t spoken in close to a decade, but when I heard about her passing, I was devastated.
I watched as an avalanche of heartfelt tributes and messages from friends and family flooded her social media accounts. She was – and is – such a loved person, and had always been quite open about her battle with depression to those who knew her well. But not everyone who struggles with suicidal thoughts and mental illness will talk about it. Instead, they suffer in silence.
The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year. That’s one person every 40 seconds. There are so many more who make suicide attempts, or who have suicidal thoughts, and these numbers simply cannot be calculated. These numbers are heartbreakingly sad and far too high. For years, talking seriously about suicide has been taboo instead of seen as the public health issue it is. Mental illness, suicide, and admitting you’re struggling have, in the past, been considered private matters, with a deadly aura of shame and silence surrounding them. Which is why days like World Suicide Prevention Day – each year on September 10th – are so vitally important.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Join us in starting a conversation about suicide prevention, spreading a message of hope, and investing in treatment and recovery.https://t.co/pksk7xzP0D #TomorrowNeedsYou #WSPD18 #NSPW18 pic.twitter.com/xiyRR8nE3E
— TWLOHA (@TWLOHA) September 10, 2018
By putting out the message that it’s okay not to be okay and to seek help, we can work to diminishing taboo around suicide. Because the reality is that something as simple as asking someone if they’re okay or letting them know you’re there if they need you, is enough to bring someone out of a suicidal place.
But while societal awareness is one thing, it’s that second vital step that we as human beings need to get better at – asking and caringˆabout people who need it the most. Pay attention to your friends and family and if you see any signs they’re struggling, reach out to them. Offer a sincere shoulder or ear to a friend if they tell you they want to talk about something.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Every life lost to suicide represents someone’s partner, child, parent, friend or colleague. We need to work together to prevent suicide – we’ve all got a role to play. #WSPD2018 #RUOKDay pic.twitter.com/nD9rFzS35F
— R U OK? (@ruokday) September 9, 2018
It’s also worthwhile letting people know you’re open to discussing mental health, and that you won’t judge. For all of the crap people give social media campaigns like hashtags or profile picture overlays for not being actually helpful, when it comes to suicide prevention and support, it is worthwhile. It lets the people on your timeline know you’re supportive of mental health and open to discussing it. It can help them feel less alone, just knowing people care.
When I reflect back on my old friend, I’m struck by the thought that when I knew her, she was always the one people would go to when they needed a friend to talk to. She was open, supportive, and caring when people needed it the most. This is why it’s so crucial we pay more attention to others, and ask how they’re doing and if they’re coping – because unless you ask, you can never understand or know what someone else might be feeling inside.
So take some time to contact your friends and family and check in with them. And not in a superficial way. Actually talk to them. Not just when a day like World Suicide Prevention Day rolls around, but all the time. And take time to look after yourself, as well.
We’re all in this together.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or need someone to talk to, please reach out.
United States Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website.
Lifeline Australia: Call 13 11 14 or visit their website.
Samaritans UK: Call 8457 90 90 90 or visit their website.