As the spotlight on National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month dims, I wrestle with one question: Where is the support for those who live?
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that for every person who dies by suicide, 287 on average think about suicide but do not die. Where are the voices of those 287? Where are the safe havens and help for survivors?
Most recognize a pink awareness ribbon as support for breast cancer survivors, victims, and research. Likewise, a yellow awareness ribbon symbolizes support for the armed services, specifically POWs and those MIA. There is a conversation about the healing and recovery process for the individuals these awareness ribbons represent. These conversations occur over dinner, in supermarket aisles, as people linger in parking lots, on social media, around the water cooler, and in numerous other places.
When we learn our co-worker received a breast cancer diagnosis, we immediately envision what that means. Physical changes. Emotional toll. Financial burden. We see our co-worker’s pain, as much as we can from an outsider’s perspective, and have an idea of how to respond. Because there is an enormous amount of conversation on breast cancer, both publicly and privately, we wrap our thoughts and support around our co-worker. Our comfortability with the topic of breast cancer allows us to start a discussion that enables our co-worker to see and feel we care.
The 287 are not so fortunate. They walk the battlefield of suicide, including the aftermath, alone- covered in the shrapnel of confusion and wounds of embarrassment that they have no idea how to heal. This reality is shocking, given that Dr. Ashley Boynton, therapist and suicide researcher, says “more than 50% of people will experience some form of suicidal thoughts in their lifetime.”
If over 50% of us experience suicidal thoughts, even if it is fleeting, why don’t we talk about suicide more? Why do those who survive cope with the aftermath— emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically— alone and silently? Why do survivors worry that their career and reputation will falter if they reveal their struggle? Why do they fear judgment?
Brief flashes of suicidal thoughts are normal. The concern arises when those suicidal thoughts relentlessly torment you to the point you contemplate a plan and have the means to carry out that plan. This jump from a fleeting suicidal thought to constant contemplation is a sign to seek immediate help.
In June 2018, the CDC reported suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., second among 10 to 34-year-olds. Statistics Canada ranked suicide as the 9th leading cause of death in 2017. With those statistics, it’s hard to believe NIH (National Institutes of Health) released a report in April 2019 that says they spent and plan to spend more money researching asthma than suicide and suicide prevention.
To the 287 who suicide did not permanently pull under, you are not alone. I offer you the voices and breakthrough moments of a few of your fellow 287 to encourage you to reach out to crisis centers and hotlines, seek professional help, and believe that you can find a life preserver in the sea of your suicidal thoughts. The murky darkness tempting you to slip beneath its surface can be silenced.
- I realized I deserved love and respect.- Christian Simone
- Hypnotherapy cured my depression and PTSD.- Kristin Rivas
- My dog saved my life.- Hollie
- I realized it’s okay to not be perfect.- Cindy Girard
- I learned my feelings were acceptable.- Anonymous
- I took things minute-by-minute.- Allison
- I accepted that I needed help.- Cassandra Bankson
Escaping a suicidal moment does not have to be based on luck. There are techniques and strategies you can use to survive. We need to create a world where talking about suicide and seeking help is discussed, understood, and encouraged. Suicide is not a taboo subject. We need to elevate the conversation on suicide at home, in our communities, and through funding dollars. We need to tackle the topic of suicide as if our lives depend on it because for some, they do.
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 1.800.273.8255 (TALK)
Author: Evelyn Lindell
Certified Health & Wellness Coach