Michaela Bush – Columnist
September is suicide awareness and prevention month. This is rarely an easy topic to discuss, nor is it simple to research and write about. Suicide rates, lest they drop to zero percent, are too high.
The World Health Organization estimates that one person every 40 seconds will take their life. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), suicide is the tenth most leading cause of death in the United States.
New research on therapies, suicide trends or rates can be hard to find unless people go searching for it. Knowing when something is wrong can mean the difference between life and death, but how are we supposed to know when we have to dig online for anything about suicide?
Ohio State University (OSU) launched a program to help students who are struggling, and the program manager brings up an important point about educating oneself on suicide.
“‘One of the primary missions that we have is to spread the word about suicide prevention. We want to teach students, staff and faculty that suicide is preventable — that mental health stigma can be eradicated,’” said Matthew Fullen, the program manager for the OSU Suicide Prevention Program.
If we understand the warning signs and the importance of taking action – both to help ourselves if we are struggling and to help others who are struggling – then we are more likely to prevent what might very well be one of the saddest situations anyone can experience.
Anything from stress, bullying, family history, mental illness or even exposure to another individual’s suicide can tip the scales and cause someone to consider taking their own life.
We have probably heard of ways to “avoid” these struggles or maintain a positive mindset about our world. However, sometimes the inevitable happens: we fall into a rut and do not know how to get back out again.
Doing something once there is a problem that needs addressed is imperative. It is this inaction, this avoidance, that society displays when we are afraid to talk about that seven-letter word, which sometimes pushes a person to take matters into their own hands.
So, the question is asked: what are some warning signs?
Oftentimes, depression symptoms and symptoms of a person contemplating suicide overlap. When a person suddenly appears happy after they have been displaying opposite emotions prior, it is an imminent warning sign that he or she should not be ignored. The symptoms can be well-hidden. The results are always devastating.
If you notice any of the warning signs, what can be done? According to an article from the Your Life Counts website, the best way to talk with someone who has begun discussing suicide is to simply listen and be kind.
The website states: “You should encourage the suicidal person to do most of the talking if they are able to.
“It may be helpful to talk about some of the specific problems the person is experiencing. Discuss ways to deal with problems which seem impossible to cope with, but do not attempt to ‘solve’ the problems yourself.”
It is not necessarily a listener’s job to decide how someone is feeling. To judge them for it or even to tell them how you fixed a similar situation in your life can be discouraging even if it comes from good intentions.
A steadfast shoulder to cry on when someone is brave enough to tell you something is wrong is sometimes enough. Acceptance is also important once someone expresses their feelings of hopelessness.
It will likely not help if they are met with a simple “it’s a phase; you’ll get over it,” or “you’re just overreacting.”
If you have been dealing with struggles that teeter close to the brink of suicide, know there are options. An array of therapies can be at your disposal. Some therapies do not even involve medication while some do. Both can be successful.
Even just talking about your feelings with someone you trust can help; by getting doubt and sadness out into the open may provide a slight relief or perhaps a world of difference.
It is not wrong to struggle. At the same time, it is not right to shame or punish yourself for having struggles. Accepting and recognizing your struggles will lead to talking to someone about it or finding the right kind of treatment – professional or otherwise – that could work best for you.
The next step is to find the courage to always wake up with the conviction to live one more day. It is worth it, and so are you.
Our mental well-being is an important aspect of our overall health. Someone does not see someone else with a broken bone and say, “Oh, that couldn’t happen to me or you. It’s just a phase.”
We seek help for them as soon as we can. If our mind, which is in control of everything in our body, is not well, it is important that we take care of it too.
Suicidal thoughts should not lead to the end of your world. Inaction and the lack of education about the topic should not be either.
Let us start healing, listening and understanding each other together.