SUICIDE. There…I said it. Can talking more about suicide cause people to take their lives or the opposite? Is there a way to end this epidemic?
Ranking at one the top of taboos globally. Over 1 million people take their lives by suicide a year. Roughly 10,000 people call the suicide prevention crisis line a month, and that is only those who have the courage to pick up the phone.
To be clear, I am not a therapist, but what I know to be true as a Certified Suicide Crisis Counselor for the past two years, is that people are terrified to say the word suicide. It’s one of the most stigmatized topics to date, which sadly fuels the life of it.
I remember when I was training to be on the crisis line, I was terrified. How could I ask someone straight out, “Are you calling today because you want to kill yourself?” The research shows that when you don’t sugar coat the reality, people get a sense of relief and safety. It didn’t come natural to me, but shortly after doing it, I witnessed how people positively responded when feeling seen and safe when a human being holds a space for them to be in the dark, and not try to fix the problem. We all want to fix/help people we love who are in pain, but there lies the problem. Nobody wants to feel like there’s something wrong with them, or that they’re broken, which most suicidal people believe. Rather, they want to be validated for their feelings. More times than not, when I speak with a caller who didn’t think they could hold on for one more day, I would see them have an epiphany by the end of the call and feel a little bit more empowered within themselves.
What could this mean if people changed their minds in 30 minutes by talking to a stranger on the phone? Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston graduate work in Social Work, spent the first 5 years studying empathy and shame. Her research points out, “Empathy requires us to recall or reflect on feelings that are uncomfortable. By receiving empathy, not only do we understand how good it feels to be heard and accepted, we also come to better understand the strength and courage it takes to be vulnerable and share that need for empathy in the first place.” I decided to research this theory more by testing out my own hypothesis. I started taking notes during the calls to try to determine a common root or cause of their suffering.
The results were feelings of isolation, shame, and guilt. Not having anybody to share their honest feelings with. If these are some of the poignant underlying issues that create suicidal ideation, then why can’t the opposite cure it?
THE OPPOSITE OF SUICIDE IS CONNECTION. I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. I have seen countless examples in my time on suicide crisis line that this is one of the solutions to heping people stay safe. I’m not discounting severe mental illness, in which some people need medication to feel safe within themselves. That is very important. There are also a lot of other elements that can play into one’s suffering. I believe that by promoting some sense connection is a solution we can act on today. A caller once told me she yearned for someone to make eye contact with her when she walked into her coffee shop, so she felt seen. The simple act alone of looking into someone’s eyes and sharing a warm smile, could literally save someone’s life. You never know what internal battle the person next to you is going through, especially now with covid restrictions everywhere.
We’ve seen at the suicide crisis line the monthly calls in the United States go up from roughly 10,000 to 12,000 during this pandemic.
Japan, according to the World Health Organizations has one of the highest rates of suicide prior to pandemic. According to CNN, the rates of suicide for woman this past October is at 83% compared to the same month last year, at 22%.
There is so much we can do to help end this epidemic. Talking openly is one of the first things that needs to happen. If you are reading this and are struggling, remember, there is nothing wrong with you. You have been through a lot. It’s normal to have thoughts of suicide, and you do not need to act on them. As cliche as it sounds, it is true; This too shall pass.
What are some solutions you can do today to change your mood and stay safe:
Find a therapist that you resonate with and trust. It is VERY important that you have someone to share your honest feelings with.
Watch a movie that makes you laugh
Call a trusted friend to share your feelings
Take a walk outside, even if it’s for 5 minutes
Play with your pet
Eat something nourishing and drink water
Take a shower
If you need more support, resources, and a deeper understanding of this topic for yourself or someone you love, check out my podcast, Into The Dawn, where we dive into suicide prevention in depth.
Please don’t forget to forward this article and podcast to someone whom it may serve.