The importance of Suicide Awareness
We are focusing this week’s blog on suicide awareness in honor suicide awareness month. This can be a heavy and uncomfortable topic, but one that needs to be discussed, especially given all of the current stressors in the world. COVID-19 has caused mass grief and trauma, not to mention the stress of job insecurity, job loss, and fears surrounding health. Many adverse mental health conditions are associated with the pandemic, including worsening mental health, increased substance use, and increased suicidal ideation or thoughts.
With the increased stressors of life for many members of our community; now, more than ever, we have to be hyper aware and vigilant of the signs and symptoms of suicidality. The information in this weeks blog will aid you in identifying symptoms, surviving your struggles and healing from the loss of loved ones to suicide.
Facts & Figures About Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts
- Suicide is a large public health issue. In the United States suicide rates have been on the rise, with completion rates of those between ages 16 and 64 increasing 35% in less than a 20-year time span.
- According to the CDC, in 2018 48,000 people died by suicide. That’s one death about every 11 minutes.
- People with minority identities, such as the LGBT+ community, are at even higher risk of suicide.
- Typically, men complete suicide more frequently than women (mostly because they use more violent methods in their attempts), but women attempt more, usually with increasing lethality each time.
- Many people have experienced suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives but have never had a plan or intent to take action
- There are often signs that a person is contemplating/planning to end their life
- Being willing to speak about suicidal thoughts is actually a positive sign—it means there is likely some doubt/ambivalence present for that person
- Drugs and alcohol decrease inhibition and are significant risk factors
- Socially withdrawing and/or giving away things are risk factors
Myths About Suicide
Suicide is scary, but what’s scarier is that there is a lot of misinformation about it. Here are some common myths about suicide.
- If you bring it up, it makes someone more likely to do it
- Suicidal talk is only for attention
- You can’t change a person’s mind
- If a person attempts suicide it means they didn’t care about you
- A person who contemplates suicide ALWAYS has a history of chronic severe mental illness
Talking about suicide DOES NOT cause suicides
First and foremost, if someone is thinking about suicide, expressing your concern for them and opening a dialog is not going to push them to act. Furthermore, while certainly some people may use suicidal talk to draw attention to themselves, the vast majority of people don’t and being willing to enter into those conversations allows you a chance to intervene and the potential to save a life.
Every mention of suicide should be explored and taken seriously
If you read some accounts from people who have survived a suicide attempt, many of them say they had instant regret after they took action—you can influence people’s mindsets and decisions by letting them know they can communicate what they are thinking and feeling. You can also let them know that it still safe to reach out AFTER they made an impulsive choice if they experience that regret.
Sometimes people impulsively take their own life and they don’t necessarily have a history of chronic mental health issues. Oftentimes, a person may be dealing with depression and concealing it fairly well to “function” and are left feeling completely alone in their struggles. Talking helps, opening a dialogue to let someone know you care what happens to them can be the bridge that helps them hold on. This is why it is especially important to check in on your friends during times of stress. If you suspect they have been thinking about or planning to commit suicide don’t be afraid to ask outright. If the idea is overwhelming then get backup, reach out to other friends, family supports or call the local Crisis line to have an assessment done.
Yes, you run the chance of upsetting your friend or misjudging the situation; yes, you could even lose a friendship or relationship because they are hurt or upset by your questions. But what it comes down to is would you prefer: overreacting and they get mad or under-reacting and you get a funeral. There are no do-overs after someone has died.
Effects on the Tribe: Your life & death do matter
Let me say first for all those who have been feeling alone and empty: You would be missed. The dark places that our minds can go, in which we are in grave danger, are often temporary. Though they don’t feel like it at the time. People dealing with chronic mental illness can certainly experience suicidal thoughts more frequently, but their intensity fluctuates. Remember that there are people who care about you. There are people who will be devastated if you die. That will question what they did wrong, how they should have acted differently, spoken sooner or ‘known’ what was going through your mind. You may think that you loved ones will simply move on after you die, but you are wrong. You matter more than you think
Thoughts on suicide for those that are left behind
When someone dies by suicide it leaves a whirlwind of thoughts and questions behind. Many people can have very strong opinions on the perceived selfishness of suicide. However, it’s not that clear cut and simple. Suicide can appear selfish, your loved one made a choice that ended their pain but opened up yours. What is most confusing is that someone can love you and still end their own life and that’s devastating. Survivors often wonder why they weren’t “enough” and the simplified truth is that a person’s actions aren’t about you, rather, they are about their own internal states and experience.
It is overwhelming to even try to imagine the amount of anguish a person would have to be in to end their own life. What they were experiencing in that moment when they acted on their suicidal thoughts was so intense that it over road all the other thoughts and connections in their lives. Their pain was so large it blocked out their ability to think about anything or anyone else beyond that moment.
Yes, it hurt you greatly. And yes, you are now carrying both their pain and your own. But no, you don’t have to carry it alone. Pain or no pain, this was their choice, not yours and you cannot take on the weight of blame for it. Regardless of the “what ifs” that you may be struggling through you cannot turn back time, you cannot unmake their choice and you cannot know how things may have been different, if only….
You will have many stages and layers of grief to work through but there are supports and resources out there for you. Locally, Lawrence County has the Suicide Loss & Healing Support Group aimed at helping those who lost loved ones to suicide. It meets the last Monday of each month (September 28th, October 26th) from 6:00-7:30 PM. Register by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org. Not from the area, call your local community mental health center or google ‘suicide support group near me’ to explore options closer to you.
How You Can Help Yourself and Others
You know yourself better than anyone else. If you feel your mental health slipping and you are on the edge of not being able to function well in daily life, try your best to muster the energy and reach out for help. If you believe a friend to be in danger, ASK them about it and call your local police or crisis number if necessary. It’s better to have a friend mad at you than to potentially lose them forever.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, know that you are not “crazy” and you are not alone. It may feel like you have no other option but to end your life, or you may be intensely worried about a friend. Whether you or someone you know is in need of support, there is help available, so please reach out. If you’ve been experiencing passive suicidal thoughts for a while, processing them in therapy can help to ease their intensity and frequency. Make an appointment with Angelus today to start making a safety and wellness plan for yourself. If you are in immediate danger of harming yourself, please do not try to schedule an appointment first; call 911, present to your nearest emergency room, call a friend or family member or contact one of the resources below for immediate assistance.
Never stop learning
- SURVIVING WHEN A LOVED ONE HAS COMPLETED SUICIDE
- WHAT TO DO WHEN A LOVED ONE IS SUICIDAL
- WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE FEELING SUICIDAL
- BEYOND THE QUARANTINE BLUES…TIPS FOR KEEPING YOURSELF SAFE
Phone Numbers TO ACCESS HELP:
- Lawrence County Crisis Line: 724-652-9000
- Mercer County Crisis Line: 724-662-2227
- The Crisis Text Line can be accessed by texting HOME to 741741
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255