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World Suicide Prevention Day is observed annually on the 10th of September.

Just as the name states, this day was made to inform the public of the severity of suicide and also in an effort to abolish the negative stigma that surrounds suicide.

Negative stigma:  Just like self-harm, suicide can often have negative stigmas that can prevent people from reaching out.  Some people may think suicide is “the easy way out.”  They may consider people with suicidal thoughts mentally deranged.  Sometimes the sufferer may even be called selfish for wanting to abandon his family and friends.   With all these ideas that make the victim look like a “bad person”, it can be difficult for someone with suicidal thoughts to reach out for help.  We need to assure these people that we want to help them through this tough time, rather than trying to guilt them into giving the idea up.

Why do we need to know about suicide?  Even if it isn’t affecting you or your family directly, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.  And maybe it isn’t affecting you at the moment, but it could.  If a friend or family member becomes suicidal it can be helpful to be able to see these signs and offer help.

How can you help?  

What puts an individual at risk?  Some risk factors include mental disorders (depression, bipolar, anxiety, schizophrenia, substance abuse, and the like), family history of suicide, chronic pain, as well as previous suicide attempts.  But don’t think that every person who fits any one of these descriptions is suicidal; they are just a possible factors.    Stressful environments (deadlines,  loss of a loved one, financial burdens, etc.) can also be huge components.

How do you know if someone might be suicidal?  An individual may be suicidal if he frequently talks about suicide, feels anxious and irritated, feels worthless, becomes withdrawn, feels like a burden or similar feelings that may make him think that life isn’t worth living.

What can you do?  Some people may joke about suicide.  This can be upsetting as well as confusing.  To be on the safe side, take what the individual says seriously.  Talk to him about what came across as suicidal.  If said individual was being suicidal, let him know you care.  Help him seek professional assistance.  Contact any professionals the individual is seeing already (psychiatrists, psychologists, etc.)  If it can be avoided, try not to leave the individual alone, especially somewhere he can access weaponry.  About 50% of suicides are committed using firearms.  You can call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) for help, whether you yourself are considering suicide or are caring for an individual.  There are also hotlines for individual states that you can look up if you need them.

Later on:  Unfortunately, preventing someone from committing suicide once doesn’t guarantee that the idea won’t cross the individual’s mind again.  It’s important to follow up.  If  the individual began seeing a psychologist, make sure he is keeping up with his visits.  If the individual was prescribed medication, make sure he is taking the correct dosage.  Some people may not like all the attention, so try not to pry more than necessary.  But support can save a life, so try to offer a hand.

How can you get help?

Reach out:  Just like with self-harm, finding a caring and trusting individual with whom you can disclose your thoughts of suicide can be extremely helpful.  Find a friend, family member, significant other, counselor, etc. to unload these feelings too.  Sometimes talking about it is enough, but sometimes it isn’t.  What is important is building a support system that you can go to frequently without being put down or ridiculed for your thoughts.  I know that for myself I always hated intervention.  It would be hard to tell my friends about my suicidal thoughts.  Not because talking to them made me feel worse, but because I feared that they would tell a school counselor or my parents.  And if someone is telling you these thoughts you probably should contact a counselor or parents.  I just hated making a big deal about it and possibly disrupting my homework-packed schedule.  The thing to realize is your life is important.  I know it can be inconvenient and annoying to get help or just attention, but if it saves your life it’s worth it.  If your friend tells your parents about your suicidal thoughts, don’t be offended or think the friend is untrustworthy.  Your friend just cares.  So try your best to be willing to talk to people.

The Trevor Project:  As I said in my last post, victims of bullying may resort to self-harm or suicide.  One group that is particularly affected by bullying and suicide is LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning/Queer) youth and adults.  The American Association of Suicidology reports that about two or three times as many LBG high school students attempted or considered suicide in comparison to straight students (it is difficult to get an exact count since death reports don’t include identity or orientation, and those things may be unknown to the parent as well).  Although there is less data, one study states that 30% of adults who identify as transgender have attempted suicide in comparison to about 5% of adults in the US overall.  The Trevor Project was created in 1998 to help LGBTQ teens and young adults (ages 13 – 24) if they are thinking about suicide or if they need support in general.  The Trevor Project offers a lifeline that you can call at 1-866-488-7386.  You can also communicate via text or chat .  You can find these resources and more at their website, http://www.thetrevorproject.org/.

Survivors of Suicide:  Suicides can obviously devastate families.  Friends, family, significant others, or really anyone you communicate with can be affected some how.  Deaths in and of themselves are tragic enough.   With suicide, the survivors (those with a relation to the individual who committed suicide) often blame themselves for the action.  Some survivors may even consider suicide now even if they hadn’t prior.  In other words, suicide is a traumatic event, and these survivors often need support too.  Grieving periods will be different for everyone.  Be respectful and don’t try to force “fun” onto them.  Be there for them, but allow them time to heal.  For more information in regards to survivors you can check out this link: http://www.survivorsofsuicide.com/

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Of course this is a heavy subject, both emotionally and information-wise, so I was only able to scratch the surface.  Remember that suicide prevention and awareness goes well beyond this day.  Reach out if you need to and support if you can.

With love and support,

The Empathetic Activist