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Suicide Prevention: Let’s Talk About It

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States for individuals of all ages, and every day, approximately 12 Americans die by suicide. Throughout September, national organizations and individuals have been speaking out to raise awareness about suicide prevention, as September marks National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.

Taking your life is perceived by many as a selfish way to leave this world. However, most individuals who commit suicide are in so much mental and emotional pain that they feel suicide is the only way to end their suffering. Individuals contemplating or planning suicide are not exactly looking up suicide hotline numbers or searching social media for posts to help them cope with their thoughts and feelings.

Most people who are contemplating suicide, unfortunately, are doing so in hopes of ending their internal pain. As a result, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, doctors, and therapists need to be aware of warning signs associated with suicidal behaviors. We all must come together as a community to educate and support each other about suicide and suicide prevention.

"Did you really want to die? No one commits suicide because they want to die. Then why do they do it? Because they want to stop the pain." —Tiffanie DeBartolo

Getting uncomfortable: Talking about suicide

Suicide is a scary topic to discuss. Individuals who attempt or commit suicide are often terrified as well. It is uncomfortable to have open conversations about this topic, but we have to make ourselves uncomfortable.

We must educate each other on the warning signs associated with suicide and how we must reach out to those who are hurting, as often they are unable to reach in and ask for help. Sometimes, when these individuals do reach out and ask for help, they are shunned, dismissed, and told to “change their perspective” or “replace their negative mindsets with positive actions.” These words can be incredibly hurtful and can catapult individuals into the final decision to end their life.

The first step to preventing suicide is to talk about it

Talk about the cold, hard facts. Talk about what you know and don’t know. Ask questions. Share your story. Share stories of others.

“Some people say suicide shows weakness, that it is the coward's way out. They’ve never had to sit there with a pill bottle in their hands and think of all the reasons why it was something they needed to do. I had to weigh my fear of death against the pain of living. There’s nothing cowardly about it. Screw anyone who says that people who kill themselves are cowards.

Once the decision to swallow the pills is made, that fear doesn’t go away. There are constant second-thoughts. But the deed is done, the painkillers are swallowed, and now it’s time to wait."

—Suicide survivor

Recognize the signs and symptoms associated with suicide

Often, many of us hear, “I had no idea he was struggling or was in so much pain.”

Family members and friends often state that they were unaware their loved one was at risk of suicide; however, the writing was on the wall more likely than not. Loved ones often are not aware of the warning signs associated with suicide, so they go unnoticed. Sometimes the loved one is in denial that something is wrong or is too busy to recognize the issue, or maybe uncomfortable addressing the warning signs with their loved one. We must educate each other about these warning signs, and we must encourage each other to speak up when we recognize these warning signs:

  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no way out of problems
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Mentioning strong feelings of guilt and shame
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Emotional distance or withdrawal
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Physical pain, such as muscle aches, stomach pain, and headaches

Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 911:

  • Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
  • Giving away possessions
  • Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family

Seek help

We are each responsible for our well-being. Sometimes we need help from others, as we cannot go through dark times alone, but we must be able to reach out and ask for help. We also must understand that who we ask for help from is a big deal. If we ask for help from someone who is apathetic, selfish, or not mentally healthy, then we may be doing ourselves a disservice. Be cautious who you confide in, make sure you can trust that person and that person will do everything they can to support you and always reach out to a professional in the meantime.