World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10 .. It comes with a huge responsibility, should you accept it.
Humans have a built-in self-preservation mechanism to maintain survival of the species. Can you imagine the despair and hopelessness it would take for a person to suicide? I can only imagine the depth of despair.
In order to fully practice Suicide Prevention, you must be willing to accept the mantel of responsibility that comes with that. After understanding the severity of the issue of suicide, you may need to take actions that aren’t popular or convenient. Are you willing to do this?
Here are ten things you can start doing right now:
- Always be kind.
- Tell the truth.
- Develop the skills of empathy and compassion. Learn how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
- When you see someone alone, ask if they would like someone to talk with or if they are alone by choice?
- Include people in things when they seem left out. (No one wants to be last chosen for the kickball game in gym class.)
- Stop laughing when someone is being hurt and stand up to the perpetrator; stop rewarding them, even when it comes at great personal cost to you. The cost is nothing compared to someone’s life.
- If you don’t like someone, take that as a sign you must need to get to know them better.
- Do not gossip. Don’t speak negatively of someone when they are not present.
- Do not put something uncomplimentary about someone on the internet that will last forever. Ask yourself, would I want someone posting this about me? Then follow up with, would the person I’m writing about want to have this posted on the internet?
- When you have wronged someone, do what you can to make amends or pay restitution.
If you can only achieve success or popularity by tearing down another person, remember that it will only last as long as it takes for someone to do the same to you.
You may be thinking some people need to toughen up. I cannot argue against a world where victims understand that when people do and say bad things about others, it says more about the perpetrator than it does about them. I would love it if everyone knew how and had the skills to be strong enough to hold their head up under extreme pressure and embarrassment. Unfortunately, we live in a society where “top dogs” win. Some people only know how to win by taking down those around them so they can appear stronger, funnier or cooler. This isn’t strong, funny or cool—it’s immature and vindictive.
If you have ever watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, you understand that the one thing you do may seem insignificant, but added to the other cumulative events in a person’s life, it may be the thing that tips the scale in favor of a severe, final act: death being better than life. Do you want to be a part of that equation? I hope not.
What if you do everything you can to prevent suicide, but you are still confronted with a suicidal friend, family member, acquaintance or stranger? Sit with them. Talk to them. Ask them if they are considering hurting themselves. How will you know? They will:
- Have lost interest in the things that interested them before
- Isolate themselves
- Have changed eating and sleeping patterns
- Have started to give away their important things
- Say veiled things, such as “The world would be better of without me,” or “I’m going away for a while” or “I don’t know if I can go on.”
Whenever you are worried someone might be considering suicide, ask them if they are thinking about it. There is a myth out there that if you ask the question, you might put the idea in their heads. This is not true. No one has ever asked that question to hear, “I wasn’t thinking of killing myself, but now that you mention it… sounds like a great idea. Thanks.” Be courageous enough to ask the question. It will work to break the taboo of not speaking about it while letting the other person know you care, see them and want to help.
Suggest they seek professional help if talking with you doesn’t help. Offer to take them and stay with them if they want. Find out who else is in their life that depends on them… it could be a little brother or sister, parent, friend or even a pet. Remind them that their lives would be forever altered if they ceased to exist. If they don’t believe that, tell them how you would be affected if they took their own life.
If you know someone who has attempted suicide, reach out to them afterwards. Don’t treat them like a pariah. Know that something so terrible has happened in their life that they wanted to die. Let that sink in… they wanted to die. Maybe you can be one reason they choose to live.
And finally, know that there are some people who will not leave signs. They know the signs and don’t want anyone to intervene. If you have been the victim of someone you know taking their own life in this way, there wasn’t likely anything you could have done to stop them. Know that they would want you to go on living your life without guilt. If you feel so inclined, you may even have an opportunity to help others going through a similar situation by sharing what happened to you.
We must do better to curb the prevalence of suicide. It is a permanent solution to what is often a temporary problem. Prevent, intervene and advocate. That’s what we can do to prevent suicide.