September is more than a month. You are more than a story.
September is Suicide Awareness & Prevention Month.
Suicide is a topic that scares us. We’re afraid to say if we think about it and we don’t know how to talk about it. However, whether we bring it up or not, suicide does not discriminate and in some way it impacts us all. An important thing to know is that you cannot give someone the idea of suicide. A common misconception is if we bring it up with someone we are concerned about is that it would be an idea we provide and alas there would be blame and guilt. That simply isn’t true. In fact, if you have concerns about someone it is most important to be clear with them. Ask them specifically about thoughts to hurt themselves, thoughts about living, or thoughts to be dead. Refer them to someone who may be trained for this dialogue but know that you absolutely did not give someone the idea for suicide.
Over one million Americans attempt suicide each year. Unfortunately, those who survive a suicide attempt often live anonymously. There is a societal shame around these individuals. This is most interesting because those who have lost someone to a completed suicide would give anything for their loved one to be a survivor. Millions of individuals are shamed into statistics each year; yet one organization in particular gives them praise. Live Through This highlights the stories and fills the gap in our society, reminding us that these individuals, more than anything, are human. I encourage you to read through this page, the stories of other humans and understand how we all align in one way or another. This is not to tell someone how to feel it is to understand that our human experiences give us connection; it allows us to not view with judgement, but with heart.
This organization allows us to break down stereotypes and cultural assumptions regarding suicidality. It not only tells us but shows us that suicide does not discriminate, rather it transcends categorization (i.e. race, age, faith, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, profession, etc). This platform allows us to take a stand and say that suicide is not shameful.
In 2017, I knew that suicide existed and I knew there was need for advocacy and support. I was in a clinical program but didn’t know where or how to dive into this area of need. But by 2018, I took a stand for change. Through my work, I was invited to join a Zero Suicide Task Force. I had the privilege of meeting Doug Jacobs a nationally recognized expert on suicide and depression. I had the privilege of learning alongside competent, caring and educated individuals. In 2018, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognized our efforts in risk management and risk mitigation. Since this time, suicide has become a part of my everyday life. I work within major mental health, I work in a specialized field where suicidal ideation, chronic suicidality and suicide exist. However, I work alongside the most educated and competent individuals who together, strive for change. As a team we developed a suicide risk screening and assessment tool for our unique population which has been implemented within all state-run facilities across the Commonwealth. Then we developed a treatment pathway which is a unique form of treatment designed to center on individuals at the highest risk for suicide in order to comprehensively treat suicidality. We work with research and utilized evidence-based practice to ensure the highest quality treatment. Here is me, in 2018, beaming with pride as our tireless efforts were recognized and we acknowledged this is only the beginning.
In the beginning I had a difficult time navigating how to tell people about my work. How do I bring up suicide during casual dinner dialogue? However I quickly realized that while it may not be the “norm” to have suicide as a part of my daily life, it has become part of who I am as a clinician and how I view this world around me. It has changed my life in the most remarkable ways. I also acknowledge that if I feel cautious about discussing the work I am doing, I am merely reinforcing the stereotype that links shame and suicide. I will not be part of reinforcing these societal stereotypes and judgments, I am here to talk aloud about suicide, it’s risk and how to get involved .
There are many resources out in the world to utilize however there are some pages that offer concrete support and direct links to professional connections. NAMI or National Alliance on Mental Illness is a plethora of information. The blog is run and maintains different aspects of life that are relatable to many. The first September 2020 post is centered on having a friend/peer experiencing suicidality. This allows for some tips on navigating these circumstances and moving towards safety of all individuals.
Below I’ve listed some survivor quotes as well for an added moment of humanity in uncertainty.
“It’s helpful hearing stories. Maybe what I feel is legitimate after all.”
“Healing is nonlinear. I try and make meaning out of those ups and downs”
“I understand that you really only have one life. I want to enjoy what I have”
If you, or someone you know, is in need of support please utilize these resources below:
National Suicide Prevention Line 800-273-8255
Veterans Crisis Line 800-273-8255 OPT. 1
The Trevor Project 866-488-7386
Text ‘NAMI’ to 741-741