Suicide Prevention & Awareness Part 3

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. 

suicideprevention
You are vast and needed.

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 info@briannamcinerny.com 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?):

  • 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: 

  • 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 – info@briannamcinerny.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/ 

Contact USA Lifeline Crisis Chat – https://www.contact-usa.org/chat.html

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education – https://save.org/ 

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 – info@briannamcinerny.com. I would love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading. I hope to connect more with you soon.

Suicide Awareness & Prevention, Part 1 of 3

This three-part series is aimed at promoting suicide awareness, and we will be discussing the topic of 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. I truly hope you will stay alive and stay with us. 

Suicide is a leading cause of death here in the United States.

It’s time to shed the stigma and talk openly about the topic of suicide, so we can promote suicide awareness and prevent unnecessary deaths by suicide.

Did you know that suicide rates are highest in the spring?

Are you surprised to learn that most people who commit suicide have no known mental health disorder? (via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

More than 10.5 million American adults reported feeling suicidal in 2017. This is more than 4% of adults 18 and older. The prevalence was highest among adults aged 18-25 – about 10.5% of adults in this age range reported serious suicidal thoughts in 2017. (via the National Institute of Mental Health)

I’m a member of this club. (I’ll share more about that in part 2 of this series).

My first love committed suicide when I was 15, and ever since, suicide has been a part of my life.

suicide awareness
I suspect that Bradford Roger Test would be stunning us all with his guitar skills today if he were still with us. He loved music, loved hunting with his dad, and he loved his dog Dozer. Brad died by suicide at age 20, 15 years ago, in May 2004.

For years after Brad died, I fought the desire to take my own life. Even though I’m past the days where suicidal thoughts were almost constant, I’m not in the clear.

The truth is, suicidal thoughts are common, and they can be complicated.

Lots of things put us at risk for suicidal thoughts/feelings, and they’re not always in our control. Family history of suicide, family history of abuse, local suicide epidemics, feelings of isolation & loss, the stigma around seeking help, and barriers to accessing professional support are all risk factors for suicide.

Relationship problems, substance abuse, health issues, and financial losses are common contributing factors, too.

Those are the statistics – the facts – what the research tells us.

Today, I’d also love to share what I’ve noticed about suicide… simply starting a conversation as someone who cares about the topic.

My noticings are from my perspective as someone with a personal relationship to suicide, as someone with a background in mental health and experience working with suicidal clients, and as someone who’s passionate about supporting leading-edge creatives as they make their mark on the world.

Every time life ends prematurely, we miss out on volumes of what could have been contributed to the world with that life. When this happens, we all lose.

Sometimes, it’s a super depressed person that’s feeling suicidal every day. I suspect this is what many people picture when they think about suicide.

Sometimes, though, it’s the person with the biggest smile on their face, laughing the loudest, cracking jokes, impacting every single person in the room with their brilliant energy who’s most at risk to die by suicide.

A person feeling suicidal can simultaneously be madly in love with their closest people, living a beautiful envy-inspiring life. Then, in the wee hours of the night, they find themselves hitting a massive low with no-one around or no-one they can trust to provide the support they need to keep going.

This brief low moment is backed by the facts, too – some research has shown that more than half of suicides are attempted impulsively, and a quarter of suicides are attempted after only 5 minutes of consideration

I’ve noticed a gap in the suicide prevention resources that are available for people like you and me – people who are smart, ambitious, independent, creative, and private.

People who are self aware, constantly learning, and always seeking personal growth.

Those of us who are ready, willing, and able to invest generously in ourselves for the betterment of our life.

Leaders who possess a healthy respect for how small our challenges really are in the grand scheme of things… who sometimes feel so sad so deeply none the less.

Many times, we fall into our depths when we are carrying the emotional weight of our entire community, and our entire world… when we’re acutely aware of the severe challenges faced by so many less fortunate than us.

In those moments, it’s too easy to feel defeated, alone, and unable to keep going.

For some of us, the national hotline and the free support groups just don’t cut it. The traditional healthcare system doesn’t always cut it for us either.

For some of us, the traditional healthcare system isn’t an option – whether it be a lack of insurance coverage, bad experiences that have scared us away from the system, or an adamant refusal to take medication… not a refusal based in shame, but based in a deep knowing that we need to find a better way.

While we’re on the topic – there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with taking medication and seeking treatment through the traditional system. We are all entitled to seek the care & solutions that work best for us.

We can welcome healing in from all angles. In my book, the more support the better.

We feel things strongly, and we’re not interested in dimming or losing that part of ourselves.

Our emotional & creative nature is our gift to this world, and we’re always looking for ways to channel this.

We are strong and capable and we want to be supported with this in mind.

It can be a challenge to find support like that. I’m working to bridge this gap, so we can stop falling through it.

Many people don’t realize how many options exist to feel better.

Part of bridging the gap is having conversations to spread suicide awareness.

From what I can tell, this gap in support is partially produced by the way we talk about & portray suicide.

Suicide is sold to us as something to be afraid of, something to judge, a weakness of character, a lack of the stuff it takes to make it. This stigma keeps us quiet and ashamed when we feel suicidal or otherwise awful.

On the flip side, suicide can also be glorified and cast as a brave or powerful choice that inspires change in others, and that’s a dangerous story, too.

Changing this narrative for ourselves is so important, and it all starts with suicide awareness.

Another part of the gap I’ve noticed is a social illusion that people experiencing wealth, love, and other abundance are protected from feeling suicidal or generally unstable.

In reality, it can be extremely lonely at the top, with a ton of pressure piled on to boot.

Related, I’ve noticed a (mostly) unspoken but widespread belief that suicide prevention & support should be low cost or free.

Don’t get me wrong, I *love* that free resources & support groups exist, and I believe that these things are so very important, just like therapy and medication are important.

Still, these solutions do not provide everything for everyone.

I don’t know about you, but I crave support in this area that goes far beyond the walls of a doctor’s office, a room full of strangers, or a free 10-minute phone call.

I want support…

…to meet me in the middle of the night, in the moments when it really, truly counts.

…who cares deeply and recognizes that my darkest moments are stepping stones to an even more powerful version of myself.

…able to show me how to make those steps forward with much less unnecessary pain and figuring-it-out-alone along the way.

I would love to live in a world where friends, family, and society at large can support us well through moments like these.

I like to think that this conversation spreading suicide awareness is a step in the right direction.

Still, the truth is that most people aren’t trained in suicide prevention and most people have absolutely no-freaking-clue how to meaningfully connect with a person who’s feeling suicidal.

We learn to keep our feelings to ourselves, and we decide to carry (/be crushed by) our burden all alone.

Even our supportive, priceless friends can seem to be unavailable or distracted when we need them the most. Can you relate?

When we’re willing and able to invest our time & money into high-caliber, highly qualified emotional support – like the support I provide to my clients – we can transform ourselves over and over again… in ways that free resources and crowded hotlines just can’t touch.

I don’t want either of us to be the next Brad Test, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Chris Cornell, Robin Williams, or any of our loved ones who we’ve lost to suicide.

So, it’s time to change the way we talk about suicide.

Let’s keep spreading suicide awareness. We can use this 3-part blog series to get started.

Let’s change the way we approach these most challenging moments. We can empower each other to recognize and embrace our greatest creative and emotional gifts. Our world needs this from us.

If you’re feeling suicidal, sad, depressed, hopeless, lonely, anxious, etc… help is available, and you deserve access to that help. Also, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Please know that there are MANY options available to you.

I always say, if you and I haven’t had a conversation, then you definitely haven’t tried everything yet. Email me at info@briannamcinerny.com if you’d like to connect.

I have a class coming up called Transforming Dark Moments into Opportunities for Expansion. It’s a free virtual class on 6/7 @ 12 PM EST. If you’re still reading this, suicidal or not, I bet this class will be a great option for you to explore. (Register for all the details).

Stay tuned for more on this topic. I’ll share more about my personal story in part 2 of this series. We will look towards the future of suicide prevention in part 3.

If you are feeling suicidal & need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK