September 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day, so yes, this post comes a few days late, but suicide has not yet ended, and every life is valuable. So, we need to take a few minutes to go over some things.
Suicide can affect anyone at any time, and yes, it’s talked about, but not nearly enough. Nor do we discuss the stigma that it has developed, nor how suicide isn’t just a “result of depression.” So, I’m not just sitting down to write about all of the warning signs of suicide and lecturing you about why it is never the answer (but of course I’ll talk about that too!!!), but I really wanted to dive in about how we need to end the shame and negative perceptions about suicide. I feel this is another MAJOR area of concern that is definitely making it a lot harder for those dealing with suicidal thoughts to get help.
Without further ado… here we go.
According to the World Health Organization, one person dies every 40 seconds (Suicide: One Person, 2019). This statistic should be shocking, but it has become normal. Although the amount of countries that have implemented suicide prevention strategies has increased in the past five years, this number only totals to 38 countries out of 195 (Suicide: One Person, 2019). These statistics need to change, and suicide prevention and discussion should be available in all corners of the world.
I told you I wouldn’t give a full-blown lecture on what suicide means, the warning signs, etc. But, it’s honestly so much more important than people realize, and it’s often difficult to even detect, and we need to go over it.
First, suicidal thoughts are NOT just something someone thinks of only when they are seriously considering ending their life, nor is it only a final line for people suffering from depression. ANYONE can get these thoughts, no matter their gender, age, social status, etc. And no, not everyone who is suffering from poor mental health has considered suicide, and not everyone with great mental health has not thought about it. And one more thing: having suicidal thoughts does not mean you are weak. It is a sign of struggle and that one needs a little bit of help or “mental medicine.” So, we need to make that clear from the beginning if we want to help break this stigma on suicide.
Another thing we need to note is that suicidal thoughts can be quick, long and drawn-out, or even used as a joke or for emphasis. We often hear people jokingly say they feel like they “want to die” when they’re given a difficult task, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have actuallyyy been contemplating committing the act. It’s just an expression. And when they do make these remarks, there is often no backlash or stigma associated with it. Remember this point.
But of course, you and I can agree there are people who seriously have been thinking of ending their lives for either a short or long period of time. And when this happens, stigmas and negative perceptions get thrown all over it. It doesn’t make sense, right? Why do we mock and criticize those who are thinking so critically about ending their lives, while we laugh and make jokes every day about “being so hungry we could die” or how we “would rather die than go to work.” It seems that if we make fun of death and suicide, then everything is okay, but then the moment we open up about truly contemplating it, we become a burden. The kind of negativity attached to the topic of true struggle is stronger than our will to reach out and help.
We’ll come back to that topic again, but let’s take a break and go back to the individuals struggling and discuss some warning signs of suicide so that you can help those around you. (this is not a complete list, nor does having these symptoms means someone is suicidal)
1) Excessive mood swings, sadness, agitation, reclusiveness, self-isolation, and/or feelings of hopelessness and being burdensome
2) Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
3) Withdrawal from friends, family, hobbies, priorities
4) Self-harm and/or engaging in dangerous behavior
5) Having gone through trauma or major life problems
6) Talking about death and/or self-harm and suicide
7) Increase in drug and/or alcohol use
8) Preparing for death: Giving away personal belongings, giving goodbyes
Now, one more thing before we get back to my main point; A question comes up: How can we help people who have been having such suicidal thoughts? Well, the absolute first thing that you should do is believe what he or she is saying. If you’re not willingly to believe that, then how can they put their trust in you to help? They might learn to feel like a burden or like they are in the wrong because no one is believing them. Another thing you can do is to reconnect and keep them connected to what they enjoy doing and to their family and friends. Bring them back to what makes them happy, and little by little it may turn their thoughts around. It’s also crucial to make them remember and feel how much you care about them. Many times, those with suicidal thoughts feel like they do not have a purpose and that no one cares for them, so their death would prove to be no problem for those around them. So, check up on them often and make both normal conversation and deep discussion about their feelings as well. Just be there. And always remember that counseling options and seeking professional help is an option. So don’t be afraid to suggest such things if needed!!
Now, let’s return to my main point of this article: breaking the stigma of suicide within yourself to make way for proactive discussion and prevention.
Don’t give the stigma more power over the individual. Apart from suicide, mental health in general is heavily disregarded and needs to be thought of as normal (which is just one reason the Little Victories blog was created!). Each person is made of physical and mental parts. We can’t just look and feel fine physically and expect our mentality and “spirit,” so to say, to also be feeling perfect. We need to actively keep up with our emotions and mental health in order for us as humans to even function normally. Just because we can’t really “see” our mental health, that doesn’t mean it’s not something that needs to be looked after. Societies around the world all have different views on this, but I’m sure you and I agree that the views tend to be more negative than positive. And in such a world, it can seem nearly impossible to feel comfortable discussing this topic of mental health and suicide that has become so taboo. But think, even if you cannot change the entire world’s view on mental health and suicide overnight, you can at least help someone struggling with such problems if you were to just listen and open up a little. You changing your views could lead you to helping others and you speaking out against the stigma eventually. It sounds cliché, but try to create a chain reaction.
So, with all these rambling paragraphs, what I’m asking you to take from this is to break the stigma associated with suicide. This stigma that suicide is only for the “depressed,” the “poor,” “certain age groups and genders.” That suicide makes you weak and burdensome. Because everyone and anyone can feel this way!! Even medication can bring about suicidal thoughts!! Please, be understanding. Just break this perception of suicide and recognize the person as a person. Those suicidal thoughts are not who he or she is. It’s just a pain that needs to find a cure.
We need to stop the shaming and blaming. Try asking how someone is doing and try to notice anything different and just talk through what’s going on. This is easier said than done, I know. But once you do it and open the conversation, it gets easier from there. Andddd, not to mention your brief moment of kindness could make a world of difference for someone struggling:
~ “And he who saves a life will be as if he had saved the lives of all humankind” (Qur’an 5:32).
Before I go, I want to leave all of you who are struggling with this:
1) Everything is temporary, and your pain will end. Remember when you were a child and you fell and hurt yourself and you thought the world was ending? That pain? Well now you probably cannot remember it because it passed. It isn’t your reality anymore, and you got through it. You can this time, too.
2) When you can’t seem to find reason or good in your life, find your purpose and create good for others. Find a Little Victory. Fill up your heart and think good and do good, even if for just one second. Do a good deed or think a good thought and see how much better you feel.
3) Suicide doesn’t end your problems; it ends the chance for you to find the solution.
U.S.: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
U.K.: 116 123
South Korea: +82 2-2203-0053
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