Walking Out of the Darkness in 2020

Even though I have been working from home for the past seven months and only seen a handful of people in-person during that time, I’ve still be able to participate in virtual events throughout this pandemic. One date that’s circled on my calendar every year is the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, an annual event that’s hosted in communities across the nation by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Things looked a little different this year, but a big thing remained clear: suicide prevention has always been an important issue and no matter how it looks, there are so many people who continue to do whatever they can in this work.

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Closing Thoughts During Suicide Prevention Month 2020

In the three years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve learned a lot about mental health and mental illness, but the topic I’ve learned the most about has been suicide prevention. As we reach the end of another year of Suicide Prevention Month, I try to take some time and reflect on what I’ve learned and the info and resources that have been shared. And since I love finding the perfect word or phrase to try to wrap up all the things I write, I spend too much time trying to find that one perfect thing to say. In reality, it probably won’t come this month, because while we’re wrapping up this month, we’re not finished talking about suicide prevention.

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What Is Your Role in Suicide Prevention?

In the three years since I started this blog, I have gained more and more courage to speak on many topics in the mental health space. Every September, I try to write a few posts for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to raise awareness, education and resources. I also try to write a post for World Suicide Prevention Day that tries to bring the discussion to the forefront (you can find the 2020 post here). And while I am proud of how I’ve grown into being able to speak on this topic, I also think I was pretty harsh on myself in the past because I thought I wasn’t qualified to talk about suicide prevention. Recently though, I’ve learned how wrong I’ve been – and where I can go from here.

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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.

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Suicide Prevention Lifelines and Other Resources

TW: This post discusses suicide.

As I wrote earlier this week, September is National Suicide Prevention Month in the United States. This month is extremely important to me for many reasons, and I’m not alone in feeling that. There are so many more people than you may realize who are going through difficult moments, and so many people that have dealt with – or are continuously dealing with – these struggles on a daily basis. Last year, I wrote about some of the resources to turn to for suicide prevention, but I thought I would update that list this year because of the current state of the world. I believe education and awareness are still lacking when it comes to discussing the topic of suicide, which is why we need to continue sharing these resources as far and wide as possible.

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Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 2020

TW: This post discusses suicide. 

Every September while I’ve been writing this blog, I post about Suicide Prevention Month. Since this is a mental health blog, I believe it’s important to see the connection between mental health and suicide prevention, and my own research and experience has shown me ways to advocate and talk about suicide prevention. One of those ways is through education and awareness. Suicide is a public health issue, and we need to understand how important suicide prevention is to fighting against it.

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Closing Out Suicide Prevention Month 2019

As we reached the end of Suicide Prevention Month, I thought long and hard about what I could write here, and to be honest I was coming up empty. You’ve seen the statistics – we know this is a major issue not only in our country but around the world. We know there are so many different resources we can turn to for help not only when we’re in a crisis, but just when we are struggling and need some help. Because even though you or I might not be experts on suicide prevention, we know where those experts are and how we can connect with them.

I guess the only real thought I had, that I thought was worth sharing here, is that even though the month is over the fight will go on. People and organizations around the world will continue to work to fight against suicide, and we should everything we can to help.

Two years ago I discovered Out of the Darkness Community Walks, which are events hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Each fall, hundreds of these walks are held in towns and cities all around the country with the intention to raise awareness and funds to the cause of suicide and suicide prevention.

When I went to my first walk two years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. And I was blown away. Now it’s an event close to my heart, and I walk in the D.C. walk every year (this year’s walk will be held on November 2nd – see my fundraising page for more information!). But there are so many organizations out there fighting suicide, not just the AFSP, and I’d encourage you to look and see where you could provide an impact.

I hope you can find your own way to help, whether it’s by volunteering time or money to an organization, or just taking a minute to check in with someone in your life. Because even the smallest outreach can have the largest impact, and you never know how you can help someone. This is a complicated issue, but an issue worth facing. Because the fight against suicide will continue, and we can’t give up now.

If you want to learn more about the work AFSP does or the Out of the Darkness Walks in general, their website has a ton of information that is extremely helpful on the subject.

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Suicide Prevention Resources

People have been writing about the stigma surrounding suicide for a very long time. Has the stigma lessened? Are people more comfortable discussing their struggles? It’s hard to quantify that on a larger scale so I don’t really want to get into all that, but it’s safe to say that this stigma still exists in some way, shape or form. This means that some people might not be getting the care and attention they need as they face suicidal thoughts, ideation or something more extreme, and that is where today’s post comes in.

Part of the reason why this is such a nuanced topic is because when someone is struggling with suicidal feelings, ‘reaching out’ isn’t as easy as it seems. Does that person have anyone to reach out to? Even if they do, do they feel comfortable enough to do so? And if that person does feel comfortable, is the person they’re reaching out to willing/able to help? So many questions…and that’s just one of the many possible scenarios.

But regardless of any of this, everyone should be aware of the suicide prevention resources that are available – whether you’re the one struggling or the one providing help. Below are some links and descriptions to some of the more well-known suicide prevention resources, websites and phone numbers. If you have any questions about anything I’ve listed, let me know and we can talk about it!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

First off, know the number (1-800-273-8255) and know that anyone can call 24/7 for FREE. But this suicide prevention center offers many other resources other than just the hotline – there’s an online chat if you can’t talk on the phone as well as specific resources for Veterans, LGBTQ+, Attempt Survivors and other groups of people who could be at risk.

Crisis Text Line

Talking on the phone isn’t always the best option, and that’s where the Crisis Text Line can help. By texting ‘TALK’ to 741741, you can have a confidential text conversation with someone. The first priority for the Crisis Text line ‘is helping people move from a hot moment to a cool calm, guiding you to create a plan to stay safe and healthy.’ In fact, this line is used for all types of crises, and more than 100 million text messages have been since in the six years since its inception.

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

The SPRC is the only federally supported resource center specifically about suicide prevention and as such, offers a ton of information on the best techniques and approaches for suicide prevention. This site is especially helpful in some of the training they offer including online courses and webinars.

The Trevor Project

Founded specifically to focus on suicide prevention for young people in the LGBTQ community, the Trevor Project offers several free resources to immediately help those in need including the Trevor Lifeline, Trevor Chat, Trevor Text and Trevor Space (you can reach all of these through their ‘Get Help Now’ page).

Veterans Crisis Line

Like many of the resources offered here, the Veterans Crisis Line offers a confidential hotline, online chat and text support but another important resource this crisis line provides is that after a call or chat, you can be referred to a Suicide Prevention Coordinator at that person’s local VA medical center.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) national helpline can provide more helpful support not only to people struggling with their mental health but also substance abuse (or both). The helpline makes it a point to note that they take calls in both English and Spanish.

*One more resource I’d like to mention is a ‘Resources’ page I found on the website of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Not only are there tons of numbers to crisis lines on this page, but also additional resources based on different mental health conditions. This page might provide way more help than I possibly could so that’s why I included it!

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A Global Issue – World Suicide Prevention Day 2019

TW: This post discusses suicide

Typically when I post about suicide/suicide prevention, I focus on the issue in America. That’s mostly because when awareness weeks/months happen, it’s mostly about the topic of suicide as it pertains to America. So when I decided to write about World Suicide Day this year (which I’ve never done before), it was one of the first times that I looked at suicide as a global issue. And yes, it is a global issue. Just see what the World Health Organization has to say about it.

The reason that reading about suicide statistics in the United States was troubling for me in the first place was that it had me thinking that the situation was worse in the United States than it was elsewhere. But as I looked up statistics, facts, and figures from other countries, I learned this is just as big of a problem all around the world. And while strategies for suicide prevention have improved in a big way, suicide rates have not decreased in recent years. In fact, it’s estimated that around the world there is a death by suicide every 40 seconds. Every. 40. Seconds.

Just as it was last year, this year’s theme is ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’ and I truly believe this theme says a lot about how we need to approach the issue – everyone, anyone can be involved in suicide prevention. Whether it’s checking in on a co-worker or giving a friend a call when you think they might be struggling, we all have a role to play in lifting up those around us and making sure they’re doing okay. But make no mistake, it is not up to just one person – we all have a role to play, and it can come down to three key actions to take:

  1. Knowing and recognizing signs of someone at risk
  2. Reaching out to someone in need
  3. Finding out what resources are available depending on the situation

There are plenty of resources that can provide the best information with specifics on this, but those are the three key takeaways that I wanted to mention because a ton can flow from those three main points. It looks easy on paper, and it some ways it is. But the topic of suicide is so nuanced and complex that the actual discussions can be anything but easy.

It starts with educating yourself, and that’s why days of awareness like today exist. I included so many links today because even though I’m not an expert myself, I know where to turn for information now, and it’s been extremely helpful.

One more thing I think you should do today. If you’re on Twitter, go check out the #WorldSuicidePreventionDay hashtag and give it a read. It might be hard, it might be upsetting, but it will also make it clear how big of an issue this is.

This is real. This is happening. And we have to fight it.

 

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 2019

TW: This post discusses suicide. 

Every year that I’ve done this blog, I’ve written about Suicide Prevention Month. Personally, it’s never easy to write, but the information is so necessary that I feel I’d be misleading you by not writing about it. Because it’s not enough to be aware that suicide is widespread in this country – we have to do more than that. But how?

If you think this issue is going away, I’m here to tell you that it’s not. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide the tenth-leading cause of death in the United States. It is the second-leading cause of death among individuals in the 10-14, 15-24, and 25-34 age groups. It is the fourth-leading cause of death among individuals in the 35-44 and 45-54 age groups. The AFSP reported that in 2017, there were an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts, and 4.3% of all adults in the United States admitted to having suicidal thoughts at some point that year.

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But this month is not just about bringing awareness to the prevalence of suicide but educating people on how to prevent it. There are tons of resources available from organizations and advocacy groups that discuss how we can work to prevent suicide and while they’re available year-round, Suicide Prevention Month provides some time to specifically discuss suicide prevention and the best ways to approach it. The National Alliance on Mental Illnessthe Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and the CDC all have pages dedicated not only to suicide prevention but to this month especially. 

Next week (September 8-14) is National Suicide Prevention Week and during the week is World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10). There’s plenty more to add to the discussion that will continue as the month goes on whether you’re going to #BeThe1To or talk about #SuicidePrevention or #StigmaFree, but I do want to leave you with this. When it comes to the topic of suicide, asking for help is not easy. Neither is trying to help those who are struggling. But we have to keep fighting – and there’s plenty to fight for.

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