TW: This post discusses suicide, suicide rates statistics and suicide prevention.
When I write about suicide prevention on this blog, it’s usually within the context of the current state of mental health in the United States. But today, I want to look at suicide prevention from a global perspective by talking about an extremely important day in the mental health community: World Suicide Prevention Day. Because make no mistake – suicide prevention is a global public health issue, and too many people still don’t really know what we’re up against.
What is World Suicide Prevention Day?
Held every year on September 10th, World Suicide Prevention Day is an awareness day that was created to provide a worldwide commitment to and a discussion surrounding suicide prevention. And make no mistake, suicide is a public health issue in many countries around the world. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year – that is one person every 40 seconds. Suicide does not discriminate, and struggles can occur at any point throughout a person’s life, but it’s also the second-leading cause of death globally – yes, all around the world – of young people ages 15-29. And this isn’t just an issue for those in high-income or high-developing countries. In fact, it was reported in 2016 that nearly 80 percent of global deaths by suicide occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
Acknowledging the Many Factors at Play
While there is an important discussion to be had about the link between suicide and mental health disorders (a topic I’ve discussed on the blog before), acknowledging the socioeconomic or sociocultural factors at play around the world isn’t brought up nearly as often. There are many interrelated factors that could be at play in this situation including past trauma, poverty, stigmatization, mistreatment or oppression, all of which could lead to the hopelessness and despair that can bring suicidal thoughts and ideation.
A report from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in 2014 mentioned that “The main suicide triggers are poverty, unemployment, the loss of a loved one, arguments and legal or work-related problems [..] Suicide results from many complex sociocultural factors and is more likely to occur during periods of socioeconomic, family and individual crisis (e.g. loss of a loved one, unemployment, sexual orientation).” What this tells us is that suicide prevention is an extremely complex issue, and that there are so many factors that can play into the discussion. And in doing this work, we all have to start somewhere!
What Can You Do? Plenty.
When it comes to suicide prevention, every single person has a role to play. Last year, I was able to come up with three action items that I think can apply to anyone who wants to help in the work of suicide prevention. While they may seem general, there is a way to specify them to your situation and make them work for you. These three actions are:
- Knowing and recognizing signs of someone at risk
- Reaching out to someone in need
- Finding out what resources are available depending on the situation
And that last part is key – you should act accordingly depending on the situation. These are three takeaways that I have found particularly helpful in the past because they’ve led me to learning so many more detailed, nuanced things about this topic. Education and awareness are two extremely important tools in this work, and I think the more you learn, the more you’re able to be a resource for others – especially if you aren’t the one struggling at the moment.
A Day of Reflection and Learning
Today is a day of learning new things for many people, but it’s also a day of reflection for millions of others. Any year is difficult to reflect on this topic but in 2020, it’s even harder. The world might feel like it’s falling apart. But to be honest, for people who struggle with suicide every day, that’s how the world has felt for a long, long time.
Today is a day of reflection in all aspects of this topic. People share their experiences having lost someone who died by suicide. To those people, we need to send all the love and strength in the world. And there are people who are sharing their experiences about being survivors, or people who work every day to overcome their struggles with suicidal thoughts and ideation. One day, I’m hoping that I can share my own story. But for today, I’ll continue to share education and awareness about this incredibly important topic.
I always talk about suicide prevention as a ‘fight against suicide’ because it is. Like it or not, suicide is very real in the world. And we have to do everything we can to fight against it.