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Using the Word: Understanding Suicide and the Need for Awareness

Throughout my career, I have been immersed in the world of suicide, from individuals contemplating suicide to those who have attempted and tragically to the ones who have succumbed to it. This word holds no fear for me anymore because it is an integral part of my work life. However, I have come to realize that the topic of suicide evokes unsettling emotions in many people.

Recently, during lunch with a few friends, I mentioned the word “suicide” and asked them how it made them feel. The responses were different. One friend proclaimed that suicide is a sin, while another labeled those who take their own lives selfish. The last friend requested that we change the topic, which I respected. It became evident that the word suicide carries tremendous stigma and fear.

Suicide Awareness Month holds such significance for me. It allows us to come together and openly discuss suicide, emphasizing its importance and the need for awareness.

In the United States, suicide ranks as the 11th leading cause of death. Shockingly, Colorado is the 5th state with the highest number of suicides. These statistics clearly indicate the urgency to be comfortable talking about suicide.

To effectively combat the fear surrounding suicide, we must challenge the myths that perpetuate it.

  • Myth One: Suggests that discussing suicide increases the likelihood of someone attempting it. However, research proves otherwise – talking about suicide reduces mental health-related risks. Engaging in open conversations allows individuals to express their feelings and provides a platform where they can be heard.
  • Myth Two: Claims that those who discuss suicide are merely seeking attention. This is an incorrect assumption. We must take anyone contemplating suicide seriously. It is crucial to address the issue and offer support openly.
  • Myth Three: Additionally, it is false to assume that suicide always occurs without warning. There are typically warning signs preceding a suicide attempt.

Personally, I never fully grasped the gravity of living with grief as a survivor of suicide loss until this past year, when I tragically lost my nephew to suicide. Suddenly, my professional and personal worlds intertwined. This specific type of grief leaves us with more questions than answers. It brings guilt as we wonder what we could have said or done differently. We constantly question what we may have missed. Through this painful experience, I have understood the profound impact suicide has on those left behind. Unfortunately, due to the stigma surrounding suicide, survivors often struggle to find the support they desperately need. People remain afraid to discuss the word suicide. Seeing suicide on this side of the spectrum helped me see how important it is to talk about suicide. I never paid attention to everyone affected by suicide. Families are grieving and may be afraid to talk about the cause of the death of their loved ones.

If you encounter someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are ways you can make a difference:

  • Assure them that they are not alone.
  • Express empathy without claiming to understand their emotions fully.
  • Avoid passing judgment.
  • Repeat their words back to them to ensure accurate understanding, and it lets them know you are actively listening.
  • Inquire if they have a plan on how to kill themselves.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help.
  • Offer to accompany them to the hospital or call a crisis line
    • Colorado Crisis Services: Call 844-493-8255or text TALK to 38255

On this World Suicide Prevention Day in 2023, I hope you have learned a few crucial lessons: Educate yourself about suicide and banish the fear of discussing it. Understand that suicidal thoughts are a serious matter requiring appropriate support and attention.

Let us begin our National Suicide Prevention Week by being able to say the word, “suicide,” and becoming comfortable conversing with anyone waiting to have someone ask them “are you okay?” These simple words have the power to save a life.