September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This is a time to bring the issue of suicide in our society to the forefront of our minds, so that we can raise awareness.
Have you or someone you know been impacted by suicide? It can have a devastating effect on the lives of the person who attempts suicide, as well as those around them.
According to the National Alliance On Mental Illness,
Throughout the month of September, NAMI will highlight “Together for Mental Health,” which encourages people to bring their voices together to advocate for better mental health care, including a crisis response system. NAMI wants any person experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors to have a number to call, a system to turn to, that would connect them to the treatment and support they need.
Since people with mental health issues often feel isolated or alone, this can increase feelings of hopelessness that contribute to suicidal thoughts. So, the more we can work together to help others who have mental health issues, the better mental health outcomes will become.
The stigma and shame that surrounds the issue of suicide can cause those that are contemplating suicide to suffer in silence. They don't know how to reach out, or who to turn to. It can feel like a lonely place to be.
People contemplating suicide often fear that their feelings are a burden, so they don't want to speak up about their problems.
Numerous people across the world think about or attempt suicide every day. Many of the people contemplating suicide suffer from depression, anxiety or another mental health disorder. Others have been bullied, harassed or otherwise marginalized in society.
Suicide is much too prevalent!
According to Dstatis,
WHO estimates for 2019 show a crude suicide rate of 9.0 per 100,000 population worldwide. Of the G7 countries, the USA had the highest (16.1) and Italy the lowest suicide rate per 100,000 persons (6.7). The suicide rate in Germany was 12.3. Among the BRICS countries the suicide rate was between 6.9 in Brazil and 25.1 in the Russian Federation.
As you can see, there are huge numbers of people each year taking their own lives. We need to band together as a community to help people who are struggling.
According to the CDC,
Suicide affects all ages. In 2020, suicide was among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 25-34.3
Often, people think that suicide is something that is reserved for teenagers, but that is clearly not the case. It is important for us to be aware of suicide risk factors in people of all ages.
Too many people are sad, and feel hopeless and miserable, to be contemplating ending their lives. It is important to treat everyone you meet with kindness, and reach out to your quiet friends that you think may be struggling silently.
Helping Someone Contemplating Suicide
If you need to help someone who is contemplating suicide, the most important thing you can do is to give them your full attention, and listen to their concerns.
A lot of people who are thinking about suicide feel very alone, so having your full attention can help to combat this feeling. Sit with them, show compassion, and be prepared to offer resources for help after the conversation.
After referring someone to a crisis line, counseling center, or emergency room for immediate help, it is important to follow up with them later. Make sure to call back in a day or two, to see that they have actually gone for help. If they haven't, you can offer to take them for services.
There are many local crisis centers where people can go if they are contemplating suicide or having another type of mental health crisis. If you offer to take them, it can help to ensure that they have received the services they need.
If you don't feel prepared to help them yourself, you can call the crisis center yourself for tips. Or, you can enlist the help of other friends and family members, or a school counselor. Having a whole support network can help both you, and the person contemplating suicide.
If You are Contemplating Suicide
There is Always Hope
Sometimes in life, we all feel down. But when you suffer from depression it is worse. It is like living life underwater in a deep, dark hole.
I have lived all my life with Anxiety, Depression and PTSD. I understand first hand what living in that darkness feels like.
When you have mental health issues, it can feel isolating. You can feel like you are alone and no one understands what you are going through. You can feel like your world is nothing but endless, silent pain.
So, you paint on a smile for one more day and try to pretend like everything is fine.
Then, you go home at night to your silent house, you have a couple of drinks, you cry, you write into the darkness and just pray for the pain to stop.
A Cry for Help
Recently, I woke up to a text message that someone in my life was contemplating suicide, and I want them to know that they are not alone.
Suicide is something that is such a final solution to problems that can be fixed.
The problem is, when you are in so much constant, stabbing pain, you don’t always know what to do. You don’t have the strength to look for creative solutions. All you know is that you need the pain to stop. You reach out for something to save you and it feels like you are just grasping at the air.
I know. I have been there. And I was always alone.
That feeling of aloneness, to me, is the biggest reason why people think about suicide. They think that the problems are insurmountable, and that they aren’t a match to the task of solving them.
You Aren’t Alone
There are so many people in this world who love you, and are here for you and will help you get through this dark time. People that will help you find the light again. They will hold your hands, and help you until you feel well again.
Even if you don't feel like there is anyone that you can turn to in your life, there are caring professionals available for you to talk to 24/7.
For anyone out there who is struggling, there is someone who will be there for you too. You may feel isolated and alone. You might think that there is no one who is ever going to help you. You might feel like the loneliness and isolation is too much for you.
I’m not one of those who is going to guilt trip you and tell you that you should keep living for the people who love you. That you should be responsible and think of your parents, partner, kids or anyone who relies on you.
I am telling you, likely there is someone who will be there for you. If there really isn’t, you can go to a crisis center, emergency room, or call the suicide hotline.
Out of the Darkness
The path out of the darkness may not always be easy. It wasn’t for me. I was surrounded for years by a lot of toxic people who only made my problems worse. Talking to them wouldn’t have helped. I know, because god knows I tried to talk to them and ask for help, and they only made the problems worse.
But eventually I did meet people who were able to help me find a new path.
I think those people are out there for you too. Even if you haven’t met them yet. There are beautiful people in this world who will love you the way that you deserve. People who will treat you like you are precious, like a bright, shining, beautiful soul. Because that is what you are.
Even if you have to do it alone, to decide for yourself that your life is worth living for YOU, I encourage you to reach out and make a call to the suicide hotline and start getting some help for yourself.
Life is about finding creative solutions. And I know that when you are in the darkness it can feel like there aren’t any solutions, but there is always something. And it has to be better than dying.
Whatever is hurting you, there is a way to fix it.
It might seem like there is not any hope, but there is always hope. You just have to find it within yourself. Find the strength to keep going for one more day. Cry yourself to sleep for one more night. In the morning things will look better and brighter and you can start over with a clean slate.
Whatever is dragging you down is something that you can get away from if you are willing to take the effort.
If it is like me with toxic family, there are ways to get away. Sure, you might have to sleep in your car for a while. You might have to go to a domestic violence shelter. You might have to go to a homeless shelter or sleep under a bridge. You might have to ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ to find a better life.
Others of us have done it before, and you can too. You can find that well of inner strength. You can decide not to give up. Keep going. Just for one more day.
Look at One Step at a Time
First, think about getting well and getting the help that you need. Everything else can wait until tomorrow.
Right now, think about right now. Think about something you can do to feel a little bit better. Make that first step. Make that first call. Go to the ER if you have to. They are required to take you even if you don’t have insurance.
Don’t think about tomorrow. Don’t think about your to-do list. Don’t think about the things or the people that drag you down. Only think about yourself and this one moment.
In this one moment, there are things you can do to fix your problems. Eventually, if you put one foot in front of the other, you will get to where you want to be. There is a better life out there for you than the life you have right now. It might not seem that way.
At my lowest, I was a teenager on my own. Sleeping in a tent in a park when I ran away from my toxic parents. I didn’t want to go back.
It was years ago, before there was help for runaways like there was now.
If you are a runaway like I was, you can call the National Runaway Safeline at 1–800-RUNAWAY and they will help you.
It actually says on their website that they aren’t going to force you to go back to your parents, if it isn’t a safe environment for you.
I was also an abused wife. I know what it’s like to feel like the person you should be able to rely on the most is out to get you. It is crappy and horrible, and you deserve better than that relationship.
There is help out there for you too.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233) and they can help you make a safety plan to get away.
All of these places can be your first step for help. Your first call. You are never alone. You don’t have to suffer in silence.
Pick up that phone. Make that call. Take control of the rest of your life.
I never thought, when I was in any of those situations, that I had a bright and beautiful life ahead of me. I never thought that it was going to be better. But I still had this fragile hope inside me that things would get better.
I bet you have that hope inside you too. Just a little bit. Grab onto that hope, and hold it tight to your chest.
It may take some struggle to get back from where you are. Even if you are standing at the edge of the cliff now, you can take a step back. You can sit down and have a good, long cry. It’s ok. It is safe to cry. It is ok to mourn and to feel lost. Sometimes in life we are lost. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to be able to find our way back.