Suicide is often a topic of conversation outcast to whispers, shadows, or “please don’t mention this to anyone.” Talking about suicide probably elicits a fearful or uncertain response in most people, rightly so, as it was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States in 2019.
Let’s try saying that statement again, but with the whole picture this time: Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death and is also one of the most preventable. In this second statement, the opportunity of intervention is fully reflected. It speaks of the hope, and of the space and time that exists in-between feelings, behaviors, and tragedy.
The first time someone told me they were having thoughts of killing themselves, I was 13 years old. Even now this memory calls tears to my eyes and compassion to my heart. Immediately following that disclosure there was an urge that I needed to do something, to take action, to make sure that this person I loved knew that there were other options for their life. It is so normal in this moment to have self-doubt, to not know what the right thing to say or do is, and I felt that way too. I had no idea what to do because like most of us, I had never learned about how to prevent suicide. I decided to tell them the pain they were feeling is awful, but it also wouldn’t last forever. I also told a trusted adult they were having suicidal thoughts. That adult connected them to a crisis resource in our community. And they lived! They got help, went to therapy, began taking medications prescribed by their psychiatrist, and today live a life so full of meaning and adventure it takes my breath away.
Today I am a licensed clinical social worker, and in my career have heard hundreds of people tell me they are thinking of suicide. The feelings of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety are often present, but so is the hope. Sharing with someone that you are thinking about suicide is brave, and it is up to us as a community to respond to that bravery with compassion, support, and connection to life-saving resources. On this National Suicide Prevention Day there are a few messages I want to share:
- Suicidal thoughts are a common, difficult, experience many people have in their lifetime. Having suicidal thoughts does not mean that someone will die by suicide.
- Stigma and negative beliefs about suicidal thoughts and behaviors are often a huge barrier to people seeking life-saving help.
- Choose to believe people you know if they tell you they are having thoughts of suicide- they have chosen to tell you for a reason. Help them connect to a resource for suicide prevention right away.
- When thoughts of suicide are addressed quickly and in a caring, supportive manner by a loved one, that person is more likely to be connected to life-saving resources and get the help they need.
- There are so many options for effective treatments that address suicidal thoughts and behaviors, most of which are widely available and covered by insurance plans.
While talking about suicide can be scary, the silence could be deadly. Preventing 100% of suicides is an achievable and necessary future. Breathe in this possibility! Create this future without suicide by learning how to respond to people in your life that may experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors. There are amazing classes, online resources, and community experts that are here to share their knowledge and achieve this outcome. Join me in this belief that one day, one person, one community at a time, we can prevent suicide.
Where to Call for Help:
- Trevor Project: Call 866-488-738624 hours a day, seven days a week
- Live Chat with the Trevor Project: 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. every day
- Trans Lifeline: Call 877-565-8860
- GLBT National Youth Talk:Call 800-246-7743 Monday through Friday, 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
- Email email@example.com
- National Suicide Hotline: Call 800-273-8255
- Text an anonymous crisis counselor: Text 741741
- Colorado Crisis and Support Line: Call 844-493-TALK (8255)to talk to a mental health professional 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
- Veterans Crisis Line: Call 800-273-825524 hours a day, seven days a week
- Live chat with the Veterans Crisis Line24 hours a day, seven days a week