Suicide Prevention : Sharing Hotline Doesn’t Cut it, How To Actually Help

suicide prevention
What can we do this Suicide Prevention Month to make authentic, actionable changes that appeal and truly help people who need them ? 
The suicidal thoughts started when Ivan was 16. A loud and intense voice in his head told him that he was a useless person, a failure, better off dead. He told no one about the thoughts lingering his brain, except his school consoler, who dismissed them as normal teen angst. But his suicidal thoughts and behaviours didn’t stop. He went through days, all the while planning how he was going to kill himself. He withdrew from friends and skipped his favourite atet-school activities. “I was falling deeper and deeper into this despair” he says. 
Suicide is one of the most urgent health problems facing today’s society. Recent numbers indicate that the suicide rates re the highest since World War II, and they are rising across age groups , gender, and ethnicities. 
 
This reality shows that we all need to do more and do better. While we understand that suicide is complex, one of the biggest obstacles in preventing suicide is losing touch with people when they’re vulnerable. Hence, while we all can help prevent suicide, I wonder at what level does it work? How can we help our loved ones when they are in their suicidal crisis ? 

RELEVANT SUSTAINABLE GOALS 

SUICIDE PREVENTION MONTH : GIVING OUT HOTLINE IS NOT ENOUGH

Sure mental health resources is crucial. Sure we need to encourage our friends or loved ones to reach out when they are in their suicidal crisis. Unfortunately, these are not enough to truly help people who need them. The harsh reality of current mental health treatment in many countries is this : people fall through the cracks. In most cases, a person who arrives at an emergency room after a suicide attempt is generally hospitalised, stabilised and once deemed to be at lower risk, discharged with guidance to follow up with a mental health professional. In reality, many don’t follow the advice, especially when they need to cope with their crisis.  
 
So what can a person can do this Suicide Prevention Month to make authentic and actionable change that truly help people who need them ? 

SUICIDE PREVENTION TIP # 1 : UNDERSTAND THEIR STRUGGLES TO END THEIR PAIN 

People suffering from suicidal thoughts consider suicide because they want to their pain to end. They also want to stop feeling like a burden. They are tired of reliving trauma.  They feel they can’t escape negative intrusive thoughts.
 
One thing we need to do better is to actually listen to people with mental illnesses and pay attention to their specific needs. Validate them. Validate their struggles and pain. Be empathetic. Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest that acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts. If you unsure or don’t know exactly what will help your friends with suicidal thoughts,  just ask them directly.

SUICIDE PREVENTION TIP # 2 : IF YOU THINK SOMEONE IS SUICIDAL, ASK THEM DIRECTLY 

The stigma and lack of awareness around suicide further puts our vulnerable population at risk of isolation, and being alone with their thoughts and feelings, augments their suicidal episodes. We need to learn to recognise the warning signs.
 
Talking about suicide not only reduces the stigma, but also can be a relief for someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts as they will be relieved that someone cares to know, and listen. Research shows that asking someone if they are thinking about suicide will not put the idea in their head or push them into action. In fact, asking someone directly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” may be the question to help save their life.
Sometimes it can make things better if we knock on a closed door and say, “You look sad. Maybe I can help. Would you like to talk about something?”,  Some phrases such as  “Have you been unhappy lately?” or “You seem down today, tell me what’s going on?” or “How are you feeling?” or “How can I best support you ? “can be used as door-openers to the conversation. 
 
Carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.

SUICIDE PREVENTION TIP # 3 : TAKE A TRAINING COURSE ON BEING AN EFFECTIVE SUICIDE PREVENTION ALLY  

Suicide awareness or mental health training courses can help you look out for and be equipped to help your friends and loved ones, as well as people in your community. Although this training or programme may not widely available, there are still things you can do to educate yourself, such as brushing up on the warning signs of suicide and how to respond to them, along with familiarising yourself with the resources available in case you or someone else ever needs them.

SUICIDE PREVENTION TIP # 4 : SPEAK OUT AGAINST PROBLEMATIC MEDIA REPRESENTATION 

For decades, media may inaccurately and dramatise suicide. The Netflix show “13 Reasons Why”, for example, has depicted the suicide of a teenaged girl and the reason she believed to be responsible for her decision to complete suicide; the suicide as a ‘revenge plot’. This is particularly disturbing and concerning, especially for vulnerable viewers.

SUICIDE PREVENTION TIP # 5 : ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES  

Suicide is often tied to mental health conditions. However, many do not realise that suicide is an outcome of a complex interaction of multiple components ranging from individual characteristics to environmental influences.  
Suicide often occurs when people are disproportionately affected by societal conditions, including inequities, discrimination, oppression, and historical trauma. Unequal economic conditions can also exacerbate risk factors. For example, poverty has both short- and long-term effects on health and sense of security because income is necessary for acquiring and maintaining resources like food, shelter, and healthcare.  
No amount of  “positive thinking” and other rhetoric people tell marginalised communities will ever stop suicide. You want to know what will ? 
  • Food & housing security, quality free healthcare, liveable wages, free therapy & rehab, clean air & water
  • Well-resourced communities rooted in mutual aid and collective care
  • Dismantling colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy, cisheteropatriarchy, ableism, fat phobia, ageism, etc.
  • Cultural and language revitalisation is suicide prevention. 
 In the context of suicide prevention efforts, social justice matters.
On the whole, suicide is a public health concern that we can all help to demystify, spread awareness, and provide support around. If we give space to the conversation around suicide and shed the stigma that surrounds it, we can collectively help our communities to prevent suicide. 
DISCLAIMER   
ChangeMakr Asia does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.
Also Read : 

If You Know Someone Is Struggling, Here’s What You Can Do 

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