Suicide awareness and prevention
Meridith T. Graham, M.S., M.DIV, LMSW
A few years ago, I was planning a program for suicide awareness and prevention at an agency in the greater Chicago region. In preparation, I assembled clients’ thoughts on the topic of suicide.
One of the most poignant statements that continues to ring in my ears is … “DON’T ASK WHY!”
This statement challenges us, because suicide and attempted suicide leave family and friends with many questions and few answers.
“Don’t ask why …” asks us to become intentionally aware, compassionate and honest in our discussions about suicide, suicidal attempts or suicidal thoughts. As a community, we must unashamedly and empathetically recognize and listen to the stories of those whose lives encompass inescapable pain, sadness and unbearable loneliness.
It is our common duty to help those suffering with thoughts of suicide and families who are left to pick up the pieces.
As the National Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, September is an opportunity to make a difference and turn the tide on this public health dilemma. Data shows that acts of suicide have increased over the past decade and leave our homes, schools, communities and churches devastated. Suicide affects Americans regardless of economic level, ethnicity, gender, social status or education. It ranks as the No. 1 leading cause of death among those ages 25-34, and it ranks No. 3 for ages 15-24.
The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention Implementation Assessment Report (2017) states that in 2015 there were more than 44,000 suicide deaths in the United States, and according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), the suicide rate in the United States increased from 10.13 per 100,000 in 2000 to 13.92 in 2016. SPRC also documents that suicide rates in the United States continue to be significantly greater than homicide rates, with more than 1.3 million suicide attempts in 2016.
In order to make a difference, we must stop viewing suicide as a taboo subject and start recognizing it as an overdue conversation. It is essential that we understand the signs that might precipitate acts of suicide in order to save lives.
A quote by Victoria Alexander, author of “In the Wake of Suicide: Stories of the People Left Behind,” sums up the suicide dilemma:
“The need to tell is both a need to tell oneself and a need to be heard. Telling and being heard are the first steps toward reconnection.”
Life is precious, and our commitment to the awareness and prevention of suicide requires us to dismiss our ignorance, apathy and bias and embrace the knowledge and compassion that reaches those who struggle.
If you recognize any of the above signs in yourself or other person, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-(800)-273-TALK (8255) immediately.