How Are We Talking About Suicide Prevention?

TW: This post discusses suicide and suicide prevention-related topics.

Contrary to how it seems on this blog, writing about suicide prevention, and talking about the topic of suicide isn’t easy for me. It brings up difficult memories and has a tendency to take me back to times in my life that were extremely painful. But I’m now in a place where I feel more comfortable sharing what I’ve learned, which is why I continue doing it. It’s helped me find a voice as a mental health advocate, and helped me form my own mindset and opinion on how to approach suicide prevention. And that’s what I’d like to share today.

First of all, I want to say that in the following paragraphs, the thoughts and opinions I’ve formed are for how people generally discuss the topic of suicide. This post is not intended for my opinions for when the topic of suicide is personal in nature, but more about how we view suicide on a broader scale. When this topic is more personal or involves loved ones, I think that’s a completely different topic that requires a different conversation. This is more about a general mindset.

Examples are an easy way for me to get to my points, so I want to tell you about a phrase I heard from a friend a few years back that got me on this path. They were telling me about someone (not a person either of us knew personally) who had died by suicide, and as they were telling me more about the situation they offhandedly mentioned how tragic this was, and basically saying ‘well what can you do?’ It’s a common phrase to use about topics that are difficult to discuss; sometimes, there’s nothing left to say to but toss your hands up and say there’s nothing else to say. But for the first time during an exchange like this, I had the thought: why are we talking about this topic like it’s an inevitability, like we’re powerless?

Sometimes, my writing makes it seem like talking about mental health is simple and easy. Make no mistake, I know that what I’m talking about is extremely difficult, and sometimes can feel (and be) impossible. But I have also learned that there are ways to fight against the stigma, and one of those ways is to push others (and find others who will push me) to build a healthier community for as many people as possible. I like adding context to what I’m saying, so I just wanted to share that before saying – we need to find healthier, less-stigmatized ways to discuss the topics of mental health and suicide prevention.

Since I’m not an academic or mental health professional, I wouldn’t feel comfortable making any sweeping declarations on this topic, so I typically turn to research. And that research has shown me that, while suicide “…is not yet fully preventable, it’s far from inevitable” (US News & World Report, 2018). Suicide prevention “…requires digging deeper into depression, mental illness, and other known risk factors that don’t fit so neatly on a public-service brochure. The time to intervene is not just in the hours or days before a suicide attempt, but in the months and even years leading up to it.” (RAND, 2017)

Suicide prevention is a complicated topic and there is a lot to learn, but to talk it about it like a tragedy that cannot be prevented makes it seem like there’s nothing we can do. Should we be talking about suicide prevention the same way we talk about other inevitable tragedies or disasters? Because it’s what we’ve been doing, and it’s not working. It’s not easy to create this mindset, but in the years I’ve spent working toward it, I’ve seen my own attitude, and that of others, change toward suicide prevention. It’s not much, but it’s given me energy to continue this work, and at this point that’s all I can ask for.


8 thoughts on “How Are We Talking About Suicide Prevention?

  1. Mentally Ill In America September 8, 2020 / 11:37 am

    My thoughts of death and gloom are being addressed with my psychiatrist. They are not good, I am not well, but… I don’t want to end my life. That’s something that many people are unaware of. But, we can save that whole phenomena for another day, because there are plenty of people with suicidal ideation who do intend on following through with it. It’s so sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan @ MBNB September 9, 2020 / 1:11 pm

      It is, and it can be such a difficult topic to talk about, or even bring up in the first place, because of how complicated it may seem. And there are so many people who deal with suicidal ideation that don’t know how to deal with it. I think you’re doing the right thing in addressing your thoughts with a professional and want to commend you for it! Seeing more people do that will hopefully encourage others to explore talking about these things as well. Wishing you all the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. September 8, 2020 / 6:42 pm

    I appreciate this post Nathan where you’re sharing parts of your journey. It was emotive, thought-provoking, and powerful. If some of our ‘stories’ help just one person and prevent a death by suicide, there’s hope, right?

    While I was writing my post on World Suicide Prevention Day, lots of personal stuff came up but I decided to leave all that out. And perhaps write about it another day. I’ve had a few horrible weeks and today — I couldn’t stop crying. The suicidal thoughts are becoming suicidal ideation but although I have most of my plan, I’m going to leave it for a few days — until this nightmare is over.

    It’s been a long time since I thought about a plan and it scares me that I feel this way now. I know if I hang on, it will pass.

    That’s the nature of mental illness and suicide, and people need to know how difficult it is for someone with suicidal ideation and that we can’t ‘snap out of it.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan @ MBNB September 9, 2020 / 1:15 pm

      You are absolutely right – one of the biggest impacts of all of this stigmatization is that it makes it hard for so many to understand what these journeys are like. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been going through it these past few weeks – sometimes it’s why I’m not able to personalize my own issues when talking about mental health, because of how much stuff it brings up. But it’s also why I feel emboldened at times to be very blunt about what I’m up against – people need to know these things! Hope this moment passes for you soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. September 9, 2020 / 6:59 pm

    I understand the inability to personalise stuff online. I dip in and out, as you might have noticed. Thank you for your concern and kindness Nathan.

    Liked by 1 person

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