Can we start a hope epidemic?

Promoting hope to prevent suicide

Posted Dec 15, 2010

One thing that's hard about suicide prevention is that many people, if not most people, think about suicide prevention as crisis intervention. But, what if we reframe suicide prevention as "hope promotion?"

Hopelessness is a critical factor for people who consider suicide. To put it simply, people who attempt suicide have lost hope. People who have hope, on the other hand, can see that there may be an end to their pain, a light at the end of the tunnel.

A hope promotion perspective can be used in a moment of crisis intervention - individually with someone who might need some help finding one little speck of light - but can also be used as a way of building all of us up at various points along the way.

Not everyone is at risk for suicide. But, all of us struggle with maintaining hope. So, in my mind, promoting hope, a key activity in suicide prevention, is something that can help all of us.

Hope promotion involves helping people develop a positive future orientation, a way of seeing beyond the immediate present to a time that could be better than right now.

A positive future orientation is the premise of a couple of pretty unscientific - but very meaningful - technology-based movements: the "It Gets Better" campaign, which uses the stories of LGBT adults to encourage LGBT young people to look toward the ways in which their lives will be better in the future, and, an online portal for "hope notes" that works to counterbalance despair.

These movements were started at times during which hope was in question. Can hope be "catching?" Can we spread hope around through viral virtual movements? Can it be that simple?

In this season dominated by darkness, I'm hoping that we can find little sparks of light. What are ways that you have found hope, or given yourself a positive future orientation?

Copyright 2010 Elana Premack Sandler, All Rights Reserved