September 10 has been designated as Suicide Prevention Day in the United States, and each year that day provides everyone a chance to stop and reflect. Suicide causes more deaths annually than violent crime, accidents, and smoking. In every age group, beginning from age 10, suicide is one of the major causes of death. We don’t seem to be doing everything we can to prevent suicide.
A few points to keep in mind:
- It’s not about “fixing” something that’s wrong with people who contemplate suicide. We need to try to relieve the conditions that make their lives a burden to themselves.
- Kindness and openness to conversation and especially listening are two of the best tools in the suicide prevention toolbox. Don’t be afraid to bring it up “have you ever considered suicide” could be one of the most loving things you ever say to someone.
- People who have experienced suicidality are the most knowledgeable experts in suicide prevention: ask them and listen to the answers.
- The scandal that is “health insurance” in the USA has mental health care as one of its many weaknesses. Mental illness treatment often receives less coverage than comparable physical health issues. Advocate for improvements to health care.
- Many troubled people speak of a sense of being “fenced out” from normal social interaction. Look around you and see if there are people who need to be included in groups and activities.
- Don’t underestimate the value of a gift of money or goods. It can often make the difference between getting by and not getting by.
Suicide prevention is multifaceted and not always easy. But somebody you love could be waiting for you to say “knowing you makes my life better”. That’s a major effort towards suicide prevention!
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