One of my roles is work in suicide prevention. In the last two years, I’ve learned there are few families in America who haven’t been touched by suicide — and this is especially true if you live west of the Mississippi. There is a western wave of violence theory; in a nutshell: there are a lot of guns west of the Mississippi.
I’m not getting into a gun debate here. I am going to share a few insights that I hope may help one of you reading.
- You’re not alone. Lots and lots of people (most Americans, actually) will experience depression at some point. Some 80% of suicides are related to depression. You may have visited that dark place where ending your life seems more reasonable than sorting out the problems at hand. The good news in all of this is there are lots of resources, and you can remain anonymous if you want too.
- People who attempt suicide and survive are not doing so “for attention.” They are hurting, and they need help. Judgments of their behavior do not help. Let’s be thankful they’ve survived.
- Talk therapy is gold for suicidal individuals. Sometimes, a person may also need medications to help right the chemicals in their brain. Similarly, sometimes diabetics need insulin. There should be no societal difference in how we decipher the pharmaceutical needs of our physical and behavioral needs.
- Community is critical. The most successful suicide prevention program in Arizona pairs senior volunteers with home-bound seniors. These pairs become friends. Now, a person who wasn’t able to leave their home has a friend coming over at least once a week to check in. Just that has been enough. The program hasn’t had a suicide yet.
- Suicide, regardless of age, race or sexual preference, etc., happens because of isolation. A person may feel alone in a rural community, or in a bustling high school. Loneliness is public enemy number one in suicide prevention. We are creatures who need friendship.
- The largest group of individuals dying by suicide in America are white men aged 65 and older by gun. If you have a man who meets these criteria in your life and you are at all concerned, please remove any guns or prescription drugs from the home until you can find him help. Be it North Carolina or arizona gun laws, almost all states in America permit individuals who are above 21 to apply for a gun license. But under federal law, people who constitute harm to themselves or others are called ‘prohibited gun possessors’. Therefore, if you know someone who falls under such a category, do report and get them the required treatment facilities.
Some great resources:
- Teen Lifeline pairs kids with kids to talk about tough things, including suicide.
- Your state behavioral health system. It may not be perfect, but they should have resources available for both substance abuse and suicide prevention. These often go hand in hand.
- Safe Talk. This is a two day class that trains anyone age 18 and older how to recognize concerning behaviors and make a safe plan. Your municipality should be offering this course.
- The Area Agency on Aging. The AAA will have community resources regarding suicide as well.
If someone in your life is hurting and considering suicide, please speak up.