This three-part series is meant to promote suicide awareness, and we will be discussing suicide throughout. If you are feeling suicidal & need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK – and get some support. There are also a ton of resources throughout this post. I truly hope you will stay alive and stay with us.
On a personal note, thank you for the beautiful response to part 1 and part 2 of this series. I’ve been blown away by the love, kindness, and support I’ve received – both from my closest friends and from strangers worldwide. These blogs have been very challenging for me to write, and you’ve made this labor of love so incredibly worth it. It’s clearer to me than ever that we’re ready to get together & come up with creative ways to prevent people from dying by suicide.
In part 1 of this series, we covered general suicide stats & research, and I shared some personal opinions on the topic of suicide.
In part 2, I shared my experience with a recent bout of my own suicidal thoughts, including the steps I take to stay alive through those moments. (The same steps I use to thrive through any challenge in my life).
Today, we’ve got a lot to cover, so you might want to bookmark this to take it in bits & pieces. (Plus, you might want to save for easy access to the resources)! We’ll be talking about all things suicide prevention:
– The current research and which methods are working well.
– Protective factors; things that make people less likely to die by suicide.
– My thoughts about how each and every one of us can prevent suicide as we move forward.
…And, I’ll leave you with even more resources-a-plenty so you can get support whenever you need it & learn how to better support others.
These sections are clearly marked so feel free to skip down to what you’re looking for.
Here we go:
The current research in suicide prevention says…
One important thing to note is that everyone is different. There are MANY different options available to us when we’re looking for help.
Suicide is complex. There isn’t one cause or one solution; usually, not even within one person.
This variability is what makes prevention efforts tricky, and also what gives us so many choices for how we can impact this issue.
There are great things happening in suicide prevention and there are things that each of us can do.
The best prevention methods for the elderly (primary care evaluation) are different than for teens (support groups, family therapy, school-based prevention), and best practices for preventing veteran suicides are even different still (VA based evaluation & crisis planning). I absolutely love this article which breaks down the recent prevention research by risk categories.
What I noticed here is that good suicide prevention requires strong access points.
Where are suicidal people already connecting with other people and with service providers? How can we support these people where they already are? How can we start a conversation about suicide in those places?
Since most suicides occur in the working-age population, workplaces can be a strong access point for suicide prevention.
If you’re a business owner or manager, I’m talking directly to you here – you can understand your role in suicide prevention and foster a workplace that reduces stigma by encouraging connection, communication, fulfillment, and mental health.
This is not only helpful for preventing suicide in your employees. You’ll be better supporting any employee who’s lost a loved one to suicide, and anyone who deals with a mental health issue at any point while you’re managing them. Believe it or not, this likely describes at least 50% of your employees. (Maybe including you).
You can help your employees be aware of these warning signs in their coworkers, and provide training that addresses suicide in the workplace.
(Feel free to schedule a conversation with me if you’d like to talk more about this.)
Healthcare & community services provide a great access point, too; indeed, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has created a Gatekeeper Training for these providers with this in mind.
Faith communities are another common gatekeeper for issues like mental health & suicidal thoughts. (We’ll come back to faith in a minute).
I believe that each and every one of us can be an access point to prevent suicide when we know what to look for and how to have these conversations.
Something else that seems clear in suicide prevention research is that limiting access to lethal means, like guns, really does have an impact on reducing completed suicides.
This is a big opportunity for us to reduce suicide. Firearm deaths accounted for 50% of suicides in 2016.
Many people think that someone who’s suicidal will just find another way, but a lot of research shows that isn’t true.
As I mentioned in Part 1, the decision to commit suicide is often impulsive, so reducing someones ability to access a gun or lethal means while their fleeting impulse passes can literally be life-saving.
Even if a person *does* find another way, they’re more likely to survive a different type of attempt, and most people who survive a suicide attempt never attempt again.
Another trend in suicide prevention is an emphasis on responsible media reporting when portraying the topic of suicide. There are guidelines in place for reporting on suicide & blogging on suicide.
Avoiding calling the suicide hotline because you don’t like talking on the phone? No longer a problem. Online resources are springing up to support us emotionally when we need it the most. This can be especially helpful for certain technologically-inclined risk groups, like adolescents.
As this psychiatrist suggests, we need to be willing to take a long hard look at the *real* causes of suicide, rather than chalking it all up to hormonal imbalance as we move forward with prevention. An antidepressant or antipsychotic is not always the answer to prevent suicide.
There is no one cause of suicide.
Many, many issues contribute to completed suicides – homelessness, accessibility of healthcare, health issues, and poverty, just to name a few. We need to address all of these things (and more) as we continue to approach this issue.
Factors that make us less likely to die by suicide…
We can all practice & encourage our loved ones to practice these things to prevent suicides.
Good healthcare is important, including behavioral health such as a therapist and/or psychiatrist. (Here’s a video I made a couple of years ago about choosing good providers.) We should all put the best possible healthcare in place for ourselves, and encourage our loved ones to do the same.
When it comes to support, the more the better. Surround yourself with empowering people and invest in yourself when it feels good and right for you.
Strongly developed life skills, including emotional coping skills, problem-solving skills, resiliency, and adaptability when change hits are protective against suicide. Good self-esteem, a consistent sense of self, a sense of purpose in one’s life – all protective against suicide, so they’re also worth prioritizing, too. (Mental Wholeness could help strengthen all of these).
These programs are reducing suicide in North Dakota, by both teaching life skills and fostering supportive connections.
The importance of connection can’t be overstated. Feeling connected to friends, family, and community – and feeling a sense of belonging to those groups – is essential. Here’s some great information about how connectedness relates to suicide, and we’ll come back to connection in the next section.
Finally, holding strong cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide is a protective factor. On the other hand, strong religious beliefs causing shame & guilt or feeling cast-out by your religious group can be a risk factor too, so this one isn’t always straightforward. We’re going to talk more about spirituality in the next section.
My suggestions for preventing suicide today…
First & foremost, if you have weapons or lethal means in your house, keep them safely locked up & secured, please. Seriously. As I mentioned before, this is a huge opportunity to prevent suicide with minimal effort. Especially with children/adolescents around, or if you have people with mental health challenges or substance abuse issues in your home, this is a must.
Familiarize yourself with the warning signs, so you can better identify and open dialogue when someone you know who might be at risk.
Prepare your knowledge about suicide prevention resources in case someone who needs your help opens up to you. Congratulations – if you’re still reading this blog you’re already off to a great start! I’ll leave you with even more resources at the end.
Once you’ve covered those basics, I believe your best steps to contribute to suicide prevention today are:
Address the parts of your mind that contribute to stigma.
Your mind is very powerful. You are creating your own reality every single day whether you realize it or not. You have the ability to shift & change the way your mind is working for you.
It’s all too common to dismiss ourselves and others as being crazy, as attention-seeking, or as being lazy… whatever-the-hell judgment we find suitable to put on ourselves & others.
On autopilot, we operate on subconscious patterns & beliefs that keep our needs met in a very, very basic way – like “stay alive” and “keep love” without distinguishing the kind of love and life that we *really* want to create for ourselves.
When we interact with people, our patterns and beliefs are impacting them too, even if we don’t realize it.
When you feel love, understanding, and acceptance of the topics of mental health and suicide, you will become a safe place where people can connect with support. That effect will spread out all over your world.
We need to become aware when we’re perpetuating the narrative that mental health or suicide is weird, scary, and bad – something to be avoided altogether.
We need to adjust our expectations of ourselves and others to be more realistic & supportive for our overall mental health & wellness.
Mental health and wholeness don’t always look like they “should”. It might not mean showering every day, having the energy to say “yes” to every invitation, never watching TV, exercising every day, or even getting out of bed every day.
What matters most is how we feel. What matters is that we’re able to discern what feels good and right for us, and are able to act on that knowledge.
We need to let go of harsh judgments of ourselves and others to create a world where everyone is free to be themselves.
The truth is that almost half of American adults experience mental illness in our lifetime, and every single one of us has mental health to think about.
Some tangible action steps to apply this:
- Make more time to meditate
- Seek more acceptance, understanding, and forgiveness of yourself and others.
- Free write about your perception of mental health. What does mental health mean to you? Have you heard stories about this in your communities and from society? What do YOU think?
- Do your own independent research on mental health with an open mind (rather than relying on misinformed beliefs). Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need some recommendations to get started.
Create your life based on your intuitive guidance & nudges from something greater than yourself.
Spirituality has become kind of loaded in our society, and I believe it’s hurting us.
Just because someone doesn’t practice or doesn’t want to practice religion – including mainstream spirituality – doesn’t mean they can’t develop faith in something greater.
For me, when I’m feeling suicidal, or when I’m at my lowest and loneliest, my connection with myself and my faith is always at the center of my experience. When I’m willing to go ever deeper with myself & my calling, those suicidal thoughts simply cannot survive.
Will you connect more deeply with yourself & a greater purpose? Will you encourage other people to do the same?
My lowest moments are offering me my clearest next steps. They’re providing me insight into exactly what I care the most about, providing my marching orders that I can use to impact the world with my passion and my natural gifts.
These moments are my opportunities to discover and flex my psychic strength. They’re the moments when I feel closest to the “other” side and the moments when I feel most sensitive – the perfect opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of my purpose & my unique sensitivities.
In those moments, I only need to hold on, stay patient, and be open to the messages that are ready to come through… from deep inside of me, AND from a purpose-driven force.
We can all live our lives like this and support each other through this process. It’s a path of really deep fulfillment and almost constant awe.
When we’re grounded in ourselves and driven faithfully by a higher purpose, we create ripples of meaningful change in the world.
Some actions you can take to connect with yourself and something greater (maybe God, maybe the Earth, maybe the universe – what calls to you?):
- Value the emotional side of yourself and understand how to process your emotions.
- Find what’s special inside of you and use that gift.
- Be generous with your love, caring, and energy – start by being generous with yourself.
- Get outside and bask in the wonder of nature – whatever kind of nature you prefer.
From there, connect on a deeper level with the people around you.
I often see people sharing about suicide awareness and encouraging all of us to check on each other, especially in the wake of very public, unexpected suicides like Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, or Kate Spade, or on days geared towards awareness.
My questions for you:
Do you really check in on your people? When you suspect someone is suicidal, do you ask them directly about it? And, if you do, are you really ready and willing to hear the truth – without necessarily trying to jump in and change it?
Are you prepared to listen & connect with that person without judgment?
If you’re the person receiving a reach out, and maybe you’re feeling suicidal – are you willing to go deep with yourself to receive the love from the people around you? Are you willing to connect to the universe & find strategies for coping that work better for you?
(No bad answers here – just awareness).
It’s shown time and time again that connection is an essential part of our life.
Lack of connection is a risk factor for suicide, and feeling connected to others is a protective factor. Connection is a spectrum we ALL fluctuate on at least a little bit – we all feel lonelier in some moments and more loved in others.
Prioritizing true, deep connection, for many of us, is not what we’re used to.
We’ve been raised in a culture that places more value on competition than connection.
Relationships are messy. We won’t always have the right words or know how to address each other, especially when times get rough.
What we need is a willingness to sit vulnerably, honestly as ourselves with each other – without walls, without judgment.
We need to be willing to engage around the topic of suicide when the situation calls for it.
When we can ask each other openly about suicidal feelings & talk about suicide without fearful emotional responses, we’ll be better able to support each other on a regular basis.
If we all focus on connecting more deeply with the people around us, we’ll have an impact on the issue of suicide.
It’s time to be intentional about shifting our values towards deeper connection as a society so that we’re able to love each other and lift each other up consistently.
Some action steps to get you connecting on a deeper level:
- Let people know that you care about them. (Even a simple bracelet like these by You Can Not Be Replaced can make an impact).
- Reach out to someone who’s had a huge impact on you and let them know how you feel about them. Say thank you.
- Give someone a call and ask for their help on something small. Then, ask if there’s something you can help them with in return. Observe and report back – email@example.com.
Suicide is a global, collective, social issue. I hope that we can keep putting our heads together to prevent needless deaths by suicide.
Here are some additional resources you can use to get information, get support & become better at supporting others.
Bring change to Mind – https://bringchange2mind.org/about-bc2m/
Know the Signs – https://www.suicideispreventable.org/
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center – https://www.sprc.org/
Suicide Awareness Voices of Support – https://save.org/
Befrienders Worldwide: https://www.befrienders.org/
Samaritans Boston – https://samaritanshope.org/
World Health Organization comprehensive report on suicide prevention – https://www.who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/en/
International Association for Suicide Prevention – www.iasp.info
Big White Wall – https://www.bigwhitewall.co.uk/
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://afsp.org/
Veterans Crisis Line – https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/
National Center for Health Research – http://www.center4research.org/suicide-awareness-prevention/
And, if you’ve lost someone you love to suicide, here’s a resource offering support and guidance for survivors.
Would you like to stay in touch with me? We’d love to have you over in my free FB group, The Cocoon. Or, shoot me an email and let me know what you thought of this series – firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
Thank you for reading. I hope to connect more with you soon.