Is Suicide a Bad Word? : How to End the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
Updated: Apr 9
In 2018, Suicide ranked tenth on the CDC's leading cause of death list, with over two and a half times as many suicides as there were homicides. This means, that Coronavirus is not the only health crisis we should be concerned about, as our mental wellbeing is just as important as physical health.
Suicide is a layered, complex issue. It’s not simple, and we all need to work together.
Too many times when discussing mental health, we hear others whisper the word "suicide" or even catch ourselves not wanting to say it out loud; however, being the first to speak up about such important and stigmatized issues can create a butterfly effect that leads to saving someone's life. This month happens to be National Suicide Prevention Month and we want to #BeThe1To spread hope to those struggling with five ways to end the stigma surrounding mental health.
Check-in with Loved Ones
Most of the time when someone is struggling, they won't be the one to reach out first, they'll continue to go about their normal routines hoping that things will eventually get better on their own. As friends and family, we can help eliminate a lot of pain and suffering for people by simply asking how they are doing. If they answer "good" or "I'm fine" when you have noticed a difference in their behavior, it's okay to poke and prod a little bit because they are most often taking the quick way out to avoid feeling like a burden.
On the contrary, it is not okay to force someone to talk about something they are not willing or ready to, it could be due to reasons such as bringing back bad memories and causing them to feel worse than before. If you decide to ask how they are truly feeling and they make it clear by their tone of voice or body language that they do not want to discuss it, it is best to respect their wishes and let them know that you are there for them when they are ready.
Be consistent with this by checking up on them whenever they pop into your thoughts or you cross them while out shopping. This doesn't have to be hovering over them, but just a simple reminder that you are genuinely thinking about them.
Be an Active Listener
If you know someone who is going through a hard time and have told them they can come to you for anything, make sure you really are there for them. This means being an active listener without judgment, letting them know that their feelings are valid and that they are not alone. When they are expressing to you how they feel understand that it could be very hard for them to open up. We all know how to hear people out, but here's how to actively listen:
Give the person speaking your full attention
Ask follow up questions to certain statements you want more insight on
Provide feedback if you sense they're wanting you to add to the topic of discussion
Comfort them when it seems like they can't get the words they're wanting to say out
Make the conversation about you ("I felt like that once..." or "I would never do that...")
Have distractions around you like your phone
Just respond with ingenuine remarks ("I'm sorry you feel that way...")
Leave the conversation until the other person wants to end it
Telling someone that you want to help them without actually pulling through can lead to feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. Because of this, it's important to remember that when someone comes to you for help that you cannot deliver, whether it's due to your own mental health issues or something else going on in your personal life, it is best to let the other person know that it is something you cannot help them with at that time. But encourage them to seek other resources rather than ignoring them.
Keep Them Away from Danger
After talking to someone who has indicated psychological hardship and you feel like they are in immediate danger, it is extremely important to contact those closest to them whether it's a significant other or family member, to find out if they have access to dangerous items like guns or knives. You should also research and provide options of mental professionals who can do a wellness check and possibly stay with them until they are no longer at risk of harming themselves or others. If a family member is not available or you do not feel comfortable taking action yourself, call 911 and ask the police department to perform a wellness check for you.
Provide a Support System
The most important reminder for people struggling emotionally is that they are not alone, they are valued, and they are loved. One of the most common factors that lead to suicide is self-isolation, meaning that someone who is usually fun-loving and outgoing could all of a sudden become a homebody or no longer participate in group activites as often as they used to.
There are a variety of things you could do to ensure that person feels like they have a strong support system. For example, if you notice someone starting to pull back from their social life, invite them to hang out with your friends, or spend the day with you, it will make them feel seen and important. If you're dealing with someone who is more of an introvert, invite them to online group chats that are created to support those with suicidal thoughts.
Follow Up Consistently
Once you know that someone is no longer in danger or that they are doing better, be sure to keep up with them and follow up from time to time. Just because they are doing better doesn't mean they are healed or don't have bad days every once in a while. For many, depression is something they must tackle on day by day, moment by moment. So make sure they feel loved and seen every once in a while.
Here are some ideas on how to genuinely follow up with someone healing from a suicidal mindset:
Write a letter
Send a short text message
Connect over email
Visit their home
Make a phone call
You don't have to do this every day as it could remind them of their dark past, but whenever you have a gut feeling to or notice a shift in their vibes. It is guaranteed to make someone's day when they know you're thinking about them.
All in all, 2020 has been a rough one for many of us. It's brought the importance of checking in on each other to surface (and we mean beyond social media). And if by chance you're reading this and don't have anyone to really talk to, our DM's on Instagram and email are always open to talk.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, don't hesitate to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800) 273-8255.