“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” — Seneca
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and September 10 was National Suicide Prevention Day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34, the fourth leading cause among people ages 35-44, and the fifth leading cause among people ages 45-54. Despite its prevalance, it feels like the topic is still hard to bring up or talk about.
We all can feel the weight of suicide as a heavy topic. Even saying the word can usher in a feeling of needing to lower our voice as to not call it forward, to not shed light on it. Although this feeling is natural and can come from a place of well-intention, it can create a heightened sense of shame and stigma. Not being able to talk about suicide creates an increased barrier for those struggling to ask for help and an increased feeling of isolation. As a therapist and as a student, suicide is something that we are taught as high-priority. Assessing an individual’s risk is important to keep them safe. We are taught to ask, “have you thought about killing yourself?” which may seem like a really blunt question. However, being vague doesn’t help, and further increases the fear surrounding the topic of suicide.
One of the biggest myths of suicide is that talking about it will encourage or lead to suicide. However, this is another way that the stigma controls the narrative. Talking about suicide openly, honestly, and from a place of compassion reduces the stigma and shame, and allows individuals to ask for help when they need it. It allows individuals to be seen, not hidden behind bushes or vague language, but to be met exactly where they are. For me personally, suicide is something that touches really close to home. One of the reasons that I turned to the field of psychology was based on my own experience with my own suffering and the suffering of my loved ones. Honestly, there have been times where the world has been so overwhelming that I longed for an escape, and I think that it is these moments of vulnerability that help me to feel deep compassion for my clients who may feel the same.
What if someone you love is dealing with suicidal thoughts? It can feel really scary. It may feel like they may be fragile, and anything you say could push them over the edge. These feelings are valid, and it’s helpful to reach out for support yourself when supporting others. Anyone can be put in a situation where they feel like their suffering may never end. Two of the leading factors that contribute to suicide are isolation and hopelessness, two things that have increased since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Suicide occurs when an individual feels like they will suffer forever, in all aspects of their life, and alone. Therefore, one of the biggest things we can do for our loved ones is to be there for them and remind them that this too shall pass.
Suicide prevention is so much more than just raising awareness, and is so much more than this short blog post. Suicide prevention is also healthcare, housing, social welfare, food security, and mental health resources. Everything ties together in order to create a situation that someone may feel like they are permanently trapped in. Therefore, everything needs to work together in order to create a situation that someone can feel like they are supported, seen, valued, and loved. This is a continuous process, and the best way that we can help in this is to support the people around us. Checking in on our friends and asking them, how are you, really? and simply being there can support them in having the courage to keep living. If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911. You can also text HOME to 741741 to text a 24/7 Crisis Textline Counselor. Help is out there. You are not alone.
Lydia Kudret, MA
CORE - Center of Relational Empowerment, PC