This is National Suicide Prevention Week. I realize this is pretty heavy for a blog about writing, but I think it’s important enough to talk about. We need to talk more about suicide, mental health, and substance abuse. These issues shouldn’t hide in the dark where no one can help.
According to the American Association of Suicidology, in 2010, 105 people died from suicide every day. It is the third leading cause of death of 15 to 24 year olds. Suicide is a huge problem, but it’s one that no one really likes to talk too much or think about. I know this for a fact, since I talk about it regularly in my day job.
There are a lot of myths about suicide, so I just want to talk about a few I personally hear a lot.
1. If someone is talking about suicide, they’re not going to do it. Not true. Most people do talk about suicide before they attempt. Not everyone, but most people.
2. It’s attention seeking. (I hear this one, especially with kids). Sure, it might be attention seeking, but if someone is going to that drastic of a measure to get attention, then pay attention. Besides, people can hurt themselves by accident. Just because it started out attention seeking doesn’t mean they can’t get hurt.
3. You can’t stop someone from killing themselves if they really want to. Not really true. Usually, people who attempt suicide don’t really want to die (though they feel like they do in that moment). Really, they’re in pain and want to make the pain to stop any way they can.
4. You should never ask someone about suicide because you don’t want to put the thought in their mind. Trust me. You’re not putting the thought in their head. If someone is thinking about it, it may be a relief to have someone care enough to ask. And if someone’s not thinking about it, they’re not going to start just because you cared enough to ask the question.
5. Someone who has attempted before won’t try again. Actually, previous attempts are one of the biggest risk factors for trying to commit suicide, so they may try again at some point.
Everyone can do their part to prevent suicide. If someone you care about seems depressed or you get the sense that something is off, ask questions. Lots of people have suicidal thoughts but would never act on them. It’s not crazy or weird. Sometimes life is just hard. Some people have suicidal thoughts and will act. There are plenty of people out there who want to help.
Here’s the number for Hopeline, a national suicide prevention hotline. 1-800-442-HOPE. Keep the number handy… you never know when you might want to pass it on.