Posted on April 21st, 2023
Suicide rates are increasing across the country, and too many people don't realize that suicide prevention is possible.
It is possible to prevent suicide. but to get there we have to bust some myths and change the conversation. Ready?
- Talking about suicide will make someone more likely to attempt suicide. This myth is so dangerous, because that fear prevents us from reaching out, from showing someone we care. Talking to someone you are think is considering suicide won't make them more likely follow through. It will make them feel safer with you, and safer asking for help. It normalizes their thoughts and reduces the shame that so many people feel in the midst of serious depression and suicidality. If you can have the conversation calmly and compassionately, without judgment and without invalidating their feelings (i.e. "You shouldn't feel that way, you are so popular/have so much to live for/are so wonderful."), you can help them think through their options, you can help them ask for help, and you can assure them of your friendship and love and their value, regardless of their mental health or suicidal thoughts.
- If someone is suicidal, there's nothing to be done, it's inevitable. Often, people who are suicidal do not want to die, they just want to escape their pain and hopelessness they are experiencing. Effective suicide prevention is possible. Everyone needs to know that for someone living with mental illness such as depression, or dealing with suicidal thoughts due to difficult life circumstances, suicidal thoughts are a temporary, time-limited symptom that like other symptoms can be treated, and they can get better.
- People who talk about or attempt suicide are just looking for attention. If you hear someone make these kinds of comments, gently but firmly correct them. We should always take suicidal thoughts, talk or behaviors seriously. Suicidal thoughts or talk means a person needs help, and they need hope, and they need people by their side. Suicidal behaviors are an emergency, and require an ER visit, immediate psych evaluation or a 911 call.
There are resources available for those who struggle with suicidal thoughts, including the Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255. (It's easy to memorize 911, but that number is a bit harder. Put it in your cell phone now, so you can react and get help in a mental health emergency!)
Conversations about suicide may not be easy, but they are worth it. Together, we can all change the conversation around suicide and mental health, and we can all work for suicide prevention.
(If you'd like someone to talk to your organization or community about mental health, contact professional speaker, writer and advocate Tara Rolstad at tararolstad.com.)