Talking about suicide
This week Septemeber 6-12th marks suicide awareness week. The goal is to simply make people aware of suicide by educating and making people aware that a problem exists. Since suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States with one suicide occurring on average every 16 minutes that is 89 lives lost daily, suicide has become a national health issue.It’s time we start talking about suicide.
For the longest time, suicide was a taboo and was not to be talked about. Some say that talking about suicide put people at risk for suicide; however, strong evidence shows that it’s the not talking about suicide that creates the problem. Talking about suicide is the best prevention possible. In fact, more schools and even military institutions are talking more about suicide.
At the Utah National Guard, Lt. Col. Hank McIntire states, “Even today, there's that stigma about mental health, about suicide that people just don't necessarily talk about it," McIntire said. "We've kind of broken that paradigm where it's OK to talk about it, it's OK to talk to someone directly and say, ‘are you considering hurting yourself?” Other military division are now begging to talk about suicide as well and recognizing that talking about it is prevention.
For the decades, school did not allow suicide prevention in their institutions because they felt talking about suicide in schools could make students vulnerable by planting the idea in their head. Talking about suicide will not “plant” the idea in teen's heads because they are already well aware of suicide from their experiences with suicidal peers and from things they have been exposed to in the media.
Over the course of 30 years of hotline experience and 20 years of school-based suicide prevention programming, there has never been a case of planting the idea of committing suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has clearly stated, "There is no evidence of increased suicide ideation or behavior among program participants." In fact, there have also been two long term follow-up studies in counties where suicide prevention programs were provided in nearly all county schools over a period of years that show reductions in youth suicide rates in the targeted county, while state rates remained unchanged or increased for the same period of time.
Even churches are beginning to talk about suicide. For centuries people who have killed themselves have been denounced and presumed to be in hell, and families have been stigmatized with guilt and inflicted with economic and social penalties. Some churches are starting to bring suicide prevention right to their pulpits while other churches have started youth outreach programs to give kids a place to talk.
Even senior care homes and senior outreach programs are talking about suicide, no one is being left behind. No matter how you look at it, talking about suicide is the best prevention we can offer. Making it okay to say how we feel without feeling ashamed or guilty can help. By talking about suicide, we can actually start addressing this national health problem and begin to focus on solutions.
If you feel suicidal and want to talk call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
SAVE - Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
AFSP - American Foundation for Suicide Prevention