World Suicide Prevention Day

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A golden butterfly in a circle, with "Support Suicide Prevention Awareness"
Today, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Being suicidal, especially if you have long-term thoughts about suicide and suicide ideation, can be a very isolating and lonely experience. Do you tell your friends and family? If you do, how will they react? What about your job? Will you be forcedly committed into psychiatric care? Will people assume that if you haven’t actually harmed yourself, you’re not really suicidal and just faking it for “attention”? If you’re happy and having a good time today, does that mean you’re not really suicidal at all? What exactly do you say, and who do you say it to?

These are the things I wish I could tell you:

Be as kind to yourself as you can. If you are having long-term suicidal thoughts, you are ill. You are not weak, you are not failing, you are not letting anyone down. You are sick, and just like if you had a bad cold, or some sort of infections, you need to take care of yourself, and let your body and your mind recover.

There is not a quick fix. Talking to a friend, or a professional, or a help line, taking medication, spending some time in short or long term care, these are all helpful but take take time, something you can take as much of as you need. I wish I could promise you that talking to someone would force your mind and your body to heal, but it won’t. This is not because you’re a failure, but because you are ill, and again, you need to give yourself time, because you are not a failure, and you are not letting anyone down.

You do not have to be perfect. Just like someone with a cold or an infection may skip their cold medication or their antibiotics, and as a result may get sicker or set back their recovery, you too can end up screwing something up. This does not make you a failure, and you have not let anyone down. You are still worthy of getting the help you need, and you can still reach out to people who want to help you. Again, there is no quick fix, and you are allowed to make mistakes.

I cannot promise you that everyone around you will be accepting. It is not unusual in my travels through the internet to find people writing about how people who attempt or commit suicide are “selfish” or “bad”. These people are wrong. You are ill, and that is not the same thing at all. But there are people who are trained to help you, and are willing to help you in the road to recovery, no matter how hard or how long it is. Some of these people will be strangers, and some of them will be friends or loved ones. I know it’s socially isolating and scary, but please try and reach out, because they want to help you. Here is a small list of resources that may be helpful to you.

Your pain, and how you feel, it is all real. You are allowed to feel these things. You are allowed to be who you are. None of this makes you bad, or undeserving, or unlovable.

I hope you find what you need.

11 thoughts on “World Suicide Prevention Day

  1. (Minor proofreading note– the “World Suicide Prevention Day” link has a stray quotation mark.)

    One thing that still greatly bothers me is that so many suicide prevention resources are still, in this era of expanding communication options, only available by phone, or TTY at best despite the fact that that technology is quickly growing outdated. I’ve noticed that some helplines are finally starting to set up web-based chat systems; I’m just surprised it’s taken this long to do so. And even beyond that, the mental health system can be quite deaf-unfriendly, with a lack of interpreters when needed and other such issues.

    I actually lost an online friend to suicide a while back, and I think this inaccessibility was at least part of the reason. During one of her bouts of depression, she tried to call her campus help line via their dedicated TTY number, and apparently nobody there knew how to answer it. So then she tried calling via relay– and they shrugged her off thinking she was someone doing an ADA compliance audit, rather than an actual deaf person in need of counseling!

  2. Oh, yes, and one other thing I just thought of:

    Accessibility of national support lines is of little use when the local treatment centers aren’t equally accessible. If you can call the support line via TTY, but can’t easily get an interpreter at the local psychiatric service provider– or, worse yet, can’t even find transportation to the local office? Yeah, that’s an issue.

    You’d think this would be a service where accessibility was paramount, but that’s often not the case.

  3. for me, most of me doesn’t want to kill myself but there are parts of me that always hate me and want me dead and sometimes they are very very loud. suicide prevention for me is more complicated than psychotherapy; i need help with my physical living conditions and a discharge plan is not sufficient.

    if i could make everyone (non-mentally ill folk and producers of popular culture and insurance companies i am looking at y’all) in the world understand one thing about suicide it would be this: people who die of suicide are not weak are not cowardly are not doing it to hurt others. much of the time they — we — are simply ill and the disease is sometimes fatal.

  4. (May be triggery for the obvious stuff)

    My first reaction to this is basically: [i]Why?[/i]

    I know logically that you’re meant to “get help”, and want to get better, but. I can’t internalise that. I don’t know how. Which I know is probably depression talking, but.

    People say “It gets better” – when? I’ve given it a decade and a half, and it hasn’t, so… when does it get better? Is there any point sticking around to find out?

    I’m not going to do anything stupid, but the only reason is because of my friends – I’ve been the person having to do the emotional cleanup after someone killed themselves or tried to, and I don’t want to put someone I care about through that. But I do worry I’ll end up resenting them for it – for keeping me here, and keeping me feeling like this, basically. (I do know this isn’t logical – it’s my choice not to kill myself, it’s not their fault, but still.) But I can’t think of a single other reason to still be here.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I struggle throughout today with the way my own suicidal ideation in 2007 was handled. Was it suicide pevention? Yes, because I’m still alive. But the punitive, blaming nature of the responses I got from professionals as well as family, did a lot of harm, too.

  6. Thank you, Anna. I really could have used something like this back when I was a depressed teen (I never hit being suicidal, so it took a major clue-by-four for me to finally seek help). I especially want to take the second to last paragraph, change it to first-person and send it to everyone I knew in high school. Or maybe just stick it on my wall.

  7. I appreciate most of this, particularly the idea that it is not an individual’s fault that they are suicidal, that they shouldn’t have to prove how bad it is to be cared about. To me, however, the “illness” model is not comforting or helpful. Some people who are suicidal are suicidal because of a huge amount of trauma or life experience/day-to-day stress. For me, when people just say it’s an illness it invalidates the idea that I’m literally trying to escape constant harassment from others. It’s not that I’m sick and being attacked by my brain, it’s that I’m in trouble and being attacked by the world around me. Unfortunately a lot of times the illness model keeps people from understanding the way that outside influence (like sexual trauma which it makes more sense to analogize with injury than illness in my experience) can be responsible for a person’s distress or that bullying/abuse can directly drive someone to it.

    I’m not saying people cannot call themselves ill if that helps them, but I’m concerned about the fact that other people are sort of being encouraged with this article to self-identify that way as well (without being given alternatives that might suit their individual case better). I don’t think there are bad intentions behind this or that no one who is considering suicide is dealing with medically rooted mental health troubles, but I think it’s important to consider how can we lend validation to people who are suffering because of their experiences and not because of something they feel comfortable defining as an illness (when in fact not all counselors like this language either)?

  8. (People whose comments are still in mod – I’ve been away from my computer that has access to the FWD back end since the last time I commented here, and I’ve just gotten to look at them now. I’m just a bit frazzled having been quite busy for two days. The ultimate “it’s not you it’s me.”)

  9. Hi Anna,

    I participated in BloggersUnite WSPD by doing 2 blogs, am just now reading what others contributed.

    Really enjoyed your post, and the comments too which I’ve not seen many of. As I read each blog I leave a comment, we’ve all done posts supporting suicide prevention, I feel it’s the least we can do is leave some feedback.

    I liked your approach about the stigma that surrounds suicide. It amazes me that so much can openly be discussed all over everywhere, yet stigma still exists when it comes to suicide which impacts millions.

    Blogs like yours and mine are changing that. I’m a fan of the Intl. Assoc. for Suicide Prevention (IASP) on FB and they are a worldwide organization in offical relations with WHO and I just love that they are worldwide. Suicide is not a dirty word and those who need help most are often afraid to reach out for fear of being judged, criticized, ridiculed or labelled. I’m passionate about raising awareness about suicide and hope one day the stigma is removed, that mental health illnesses or suicide are not looked at any differently than any other diseases or death and that people show compassion, not judgement.

    Take care, Barb

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