Suicide Prevention Week
September 4-10 is suicide prevention week -- according to the American Association of Suicidology and the World Health Organization, someone attempts suicide in the US every 38 seconds and almost a million worldwide die from suicide every year. With these staggering statistics in mind, we wanted to take a closer look at suicide – something that is often very misunderstood – and find out more about how to prevent it.
We turned to Cheryl Brown, founder of Suicide: Finding Hope, and Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D. – both of whom have lost loved ones to suicide – to learn more about prevention and education strategies. Brown founded the site as a way to provide the latest knowledge and research surrounding suicide and to offer a place for survivors and those coping with suicide loss to better understand and navigate what they are going through. "My greatest message to survivors is that it gets better and life can be fully lived, even in the face of such a tragedy. I and others are living examples," she says. She also hopes to educate people about suicide. "Education about suicide, without glamorizing it, will engage all of us to think about prevention and compassion."
Misconceptions about suicide
There are many misconceptions about suicide, which can end up standing in the way of prevention. The more assumptions we make about something, especially when it comes to mental illness, the harder it is to deal with it in a way that can actually help people.
One of the biggest misconceptions about suicide is the belief that the person wants to die, Brown explains. "They don't want to die, they just want to kill the pain and they can't figure out any other way to do it."
Another common misconception is if it's a true suicide, the individual will leave a note to explain. Brown says that only about 25 percent of people who suicide will leave a note, meaning that 75 percent won't. The lack of a note leads to unending questions and doubts but doesn't mean very much, she adds. "The person has lost a sense of connection to others at the point of suicide and thus makes higher-level thinking less likely."
Brown shares some of her tips for suicide prevention below.
Importance of coping skills
One of the contributing factors to suicide that most concerns Linn-Gust includes the lack of coping skills.
When it comes to coping with depression and other forms of mental illness, Linn-Gust stresses that it's also crucial that people know who they can call when they believe they need support. "While a crisis line should always be included in this list it also would include family, friends and other people in someone's life who care," she says.
What to do if someone is at risk
If you're worried about someone you know being at risk for suicide, the first thing you need to do is ask them if they are suicidal, Linn-Gust says. She adds that many people are afraid to ask that question because they're worried the answer will be yes -- and then they won't know what to do.
If someone says yes, they are feeling suicidal, then you need to:
More about mental health
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