Every single year the United States of America loses over 40,000 men, women, and children to the staggering and tragic cause of death that is suicide. Obviously mental health has become a true pandemic in our country as well as the rest of the world. More and more often the urge to raise suicide prevention awareness raises its head. The people that are behind these, often grassroots, mental health campaigns can be considered heroes. Through partnerships with clinics, the government, and even a national suicide awareness day it seems that things are finally beginning to come into focus. Let’s take a look at how we are fighting to promote the facts of this tragic occurrence through things such as the suicide awareness walk and many other promotional ideas.
Suicide Is a Global Problem
Though we spoke briefly on suicide as it pertains solely to the United States, we still feel it worth looking at on a global scale. In a 2011 research study compiled by the London Free Press, over one million people die due to suicide every single year. That horrifying number can be broken down into even more terrifying fractions. 1 million deaths per year equals 3,000 suicides per day, or one death every forty seconds. That’s right, in the time it took you to read this paragraph it is likely that two more people have ended their lives. As a result of this alarming number that has been an increase in suicide awareness month type ‘events’.
One of the most important awareness related days on the calendar is September 10th. This is the World Suicide Prevention Day. This day was initiated by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in conjunction with the World Health Organization. Each celebration of this awareness day comes with a new and refocused ‘theme’. The theme for National Suicide Awareness Day 2013, for example, was “Stigma: A Major Barrier to Suicide Prevention”. This theme sought to dispel some of the myths and stigmas that have cropped up around mental health. Let’s dig into those in order to help understand them ourselves.
Understanding Mental Health Stigmas
One of the best ways to raise suicide awareness week to the level of other national events geared toward helping people is by targeting the myths surrounding suicide. Suicide is viewed by many people as a ‘selfish act of cowardice’. These people, perhaps unjustly, believe that the person who is committing suicide one day simply woke up with the intention to kill themselves. Perhaps thankfully so, most have not felt the sheer weight of depression and other mental health abnormalities as they crush your spirit and push you toward this sad resolution.
In fact, this judgmental attitude toward those that consider suicide an ‘option’ are what keep many from speaking out about their own struggles. Here are a few common myths in relation to suicide:
- Suicide is brought on by a form of personal weakness.
- If you aren’t tough then you will be more likely to try and hurt or kill yourself. This isn’t true. Some of the greatest athletes in the world have committed suicide and they certainly are not weak.
- Mental illness makes me less of a person than the people around me.
- Mental illness, the leading cause of suicide, is not something you can control as it is simply passed on to you through genetics and biology. Making the decision to address your own mental illness, if anything, makes you a stronger person. It’s hard to look in that mirrow and realize that something is wrong.
- People talk about suicide for attention and should be ignored.
- While it is possible that some people use self-harm as a way to garner attention, the idea of ignoring all people who contemplate suicide is a gross response. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary and fixable problem. If a single person is ignored, and allowed to kill themselves, because others thought they were ‘doing it for attention’, than that is too many.
- All people suffering from mental illness are dangerous.
- People who suffer from mental illness, depression, and the other leading causes of suicide are no more dangerous than anyone else you might met on the street. If anything, they are just more of a danger to themselves.
Elevating Suicide Awareness in Everyday Life
When looking at the above laundry list of suicide and mental health stigmas, it seems hard to believe that there is any way to really stem the tide and get some good information out there. Fortunately, there are people all over the world and, indeed, all over the country trying to do just that in as many ways as possible. One of the most common ways to get the word out on suicide awareness is by adding physical and visible markers in every day life. One of those markers is the suicide awareness ribbon. You can find these ribbons stickered to the back of car windows, on display in local businesses, or even tattooed on people who have really invested in getting the word out.
These ribbons come in a variety of different colors due to the fact that they double for other social awareness issues. For example, pink ribbons are a symbol of breast cancer awareness. While the suicide awareness color of choice is purple and turqoise. These two colors symbolize “awareness” and “prevention”. They are a great way to get peopel talking about a subject that they might otherwise never consider unless it personally strikes their life. These ribbons can be purchased from pretty much anywhere otherwise you can get them specially ordered and printed off through the suicide prevention and awareness communities on the internet.
Common Symptoms of Suicidal People
Now that we’ve talked about raising awareness for the tragic affliction that is suicide, let’s discuss a few quick ways that you can appropriately identify those that are struggling and could potentially end up harming or killing themselves. We won’t use any canned suicide awareness quotes for this. Instead, we want to give you realistic examples that you might come across in real life. Life isn’t cliche like the movies and you need to be prepared for it.
- Sudden changes in eating or sleeping habits.
- The two most routine, and basic, things we do in our day to day lives is eat and sleep. We settle into a routine whereupon we eat a certain amount of food and sleep a certain amount of hours. A sudden change in either of these practices is a cause for concern. Typically stress or some other form of anxiety is at play here.
- The sudden loss of a loved one or acquaintance.
- Death is both a normal part of life and a mysterious one. So whenever we are reminded of our own mortality it can be hard to swallow. If your friend loses a loved one, or experiences death close up, then be prepared to stand by them as they deal with the emotional roller coaster that comes afterward.
- The discussion of self inflicted harm.
- We all can make self deprecating jokes about feeling like ‘jumping off of a bridge’, but it is when those jokes become repeated that they lose their humor. If you know someone that repeatedly talks about hurting themselves, even in exaggerated scenarios, keep an eye out on them and don’t be afraid to try and find out of they are okay.
- Sudden urge to remain isolated.
- Sometimes we get sick and want to spend a few days on our own. However, going from an extrovert to a complete introvert is a massive red flag. Don’t let your friends hole up alone, out of the blue, without trying to figure out what is wrong with them.
- The end of a relationship.
- Losing a romantic partner is tough, especially when the relationship came to a sudden end. If your friend is dumped, cheated on, or simply left then be there for them.
Knowing the ins and outs of the symptoms of suicide is a great way to help make you more aware of the struggle your friends and family may face. Simply opening up the door of discussion, however, can change the world. Right now suicide is a hidden killer that strikes without hesitation. It is the most common ‘violent’ form of death in the world today. Open up your mind, spread awareness, and do your part to save the lives of those around you.