National Suicide Prevention Week 2019
Did you know that almost 2 million suicide attempts are made in America each year? Because of these attempts, over 33,000 people lose their lives in some of the most tragic circumstances imaginable. Of those who survive, they are more likely to attempt suicide again in the future. What’s absolutely heartbreaking about this is that almost every suicide is preventable. The mental health conditions that make a suicide attempt more likely are treatable – provided they are recognized. To help people get help for their suicidal urges, and the conditions that encourage them, we need to break down the barriers. To remove the shame and stigma that often surrounds suicide. Suicide Prevention Week is one of the major efforts in this area.
National Suicide Prevention Week is a way to get information out there about suicide prevention. As a result of mental health research advancing each and every year, the myths surrounding suicide are steadily being broken down. For example, do you think that asking a person if they are suicidal is a bad idea? Perhaps you are worried that such a question might make suicide more likely. In actual fact, it’s been shown that asking this very question is wise. Rather than making suicide more likely, it gives a person space to open up about their darkest feelings.
So what are some of the initiatives and ideas associated with Suicide Prevention Week? One key aim of the week is to highlight the particular groups of people who are especially vulnerable to suicide. Sadly, groups exist within society who are far more likely to statistically commit suicide. Military veterans are one such group, and LGBT people are another. By highlighting the difficulties faced by these groups, people are in a better position to understand and help them.
As Suicide Prevention Week has been going for a long time, we are able to look back on its legacy. One way in which it has advanced the conversation about suicide is by focusing on a particular topic or theme each year. Examples of past themes include a look at globalizing the prevention agenda back in 2009, and how greater collaboration between disciplines could occur in 2012. So what is the theme for 2019’s efforts?
This year, the main concept underpinning National Suicide Prevention Week, and the broader month around it, is ‘Be The One To’. This is a catchy, practical concept showing people how they can make a real difference in suicide prevention. This concept advocates that people should be the one to ask how others are feeling. Sometimes, the simple act of asking can be enough to break a person’s suicidal urge, and give them space to express how they really feel.
In addition to asking, people should aim to be the one to help keep someone safe. This can involve removing means of harm, and being around someone in a time of crisis. Listening to someone without judgement, and then following up on how they feel at a later time, can help to create a sense of support and solidarity. Making people who are experiencing suicidal urges feel connected is one of the best ways to keep them alive.
As well as furthering the ‘Be The One To’ concept, Suicide Prevention Week promotes awareness about different resources for preventing suicide. Some examples of these include the 24/7 Lifeline phone number which can be called by anyone on the brink, the Veterans Crisis line which supports heroes going through a tough time, and specialist resources for healthcare providers. By putting these resources in the public eye, there is a greater chance they will be noticed by those who need them most.
The main day of focus within Suicide Prevention Week is World Suicide Prevention Day. This year, it will be held on September 10th. To show support for these efforts, people promote them by distributing useful materials, and displaying ribbons, both digital and physical. The Suicide Prevention ribbon is half turquoise and half purple.
Of course, the ways in which suicide prevention is approached changes with the times. In today’s world, social media and news coverage are pervasive like never before. One of the aims of Suicide Prevention Week is to ensure that both news organizations, and social networking companies, take a responsible aim to suicide information. When presented in the wrong way, information about suicide can trigger urges in others. Everyone should take the time to learn about this aspect of suicide, to ensure their own behavior isn’t accidentally making the problem worse.
For survivors of suicide attempts, and the families of those who lost their lives to suicide, Prevention Week is an especially potent time. It can stir up intense feelings of grief, anger, and even depression. However, it can also be a time when negative energy is transformed into positive change. Sometimes, those who have felt suicidal themselves are in the best position to help others. If you know someone who’s been affected by suicide, try and reach out to them during Prevention Week. Your empathy and care may be more powerful than you can imagine.
Prevention Week also keeps the vital role of mental health research in the public eye. Due to the ongoing stigma surrounding mental health, people don’t always think of it when they think of research. However, ensuring that mental health knowledge continues to advance is a vital aim of Prevention Week. When people learn the truth about suicide, including its shocking prevalence, they are more likely to be supportive of greater resources being allocated to research.
Ultimately, suicide is one of the most painful things that can occur. Anything that can be done to further understanding about suicide, and to help those impacted by it, should be encouraged. National Suicide Prevention Week is the perfect time for you to make a stand. Do what you can. If you know someone is feeling down, reach out to them. Ask how they are. If you can afford to, donate your time or money to a mental health research organization. Volunteer to help a veteran.
Suicide is something that touches far too many lives. Thankfully, we can all play a role in preventing it. What better time than now? We all need to step up and do what we can, because the alternative is too painful to ignore.