3 minute read

IGNITE September 2020

Suicide prevention requires urgent consideration

Presenting a united front in caring for each other

Suicide prevention is a cause that has gained much traction over recent years, but I’ll be honest, we still have a lot of work to do. It’s about more than a hashtag or a social media post during the month of suicide prevention, although those activities do bring much-needed awareness to the movement. Nor is suicide prevention just about the individuals on the brink of taking their own life.

Mental illness is not just a personal problem that can be ignored. It affects everything in one’s life.

This topic is one that the Rockford area, OUR community, is far too familiar with. We feel it deeply. The loss of parents, children, friends, cousins and that colleague that had the office space across from yours. Mental illness is not just a personal problem that can be ignored. It affects everything in one’s life. It can affect the ability to get out of bed, work performance and even the will to live. Suicide was a concern long before 2020’s calendar-ofdisaster, but the level of isolation, fear and uncertainty amid this pandemic has only shown an influx in levels of anxiety and suicide rates.

Even further, the psychological and socioemotional effects will likely be seen for long after.

The Need for Good Listeners

Now is when we need to unite and take care of one another. Offer your help, call your friends and family, write a kind letter to the nursing homes. I challenge you to do something. If you’re worried about someone, don’t be afraid to call for help and remove access to methods.

Preventing suicide is about all of the cataclysmic moments that lead to the one where someone feels so utterly hopeless, they attempt suicide. It is about whether someone has access to core necessities — taking it back to Maslow’s Hierarchy — and whether they have access to rehabilitation, counseling and support.

Suicide prevention requires all community members, bosses, colleagues, industries and supportive services to collaborate and take part. We’ve learned many things about suicide prevention, and an important lesson learned is that it is not just one thing — it is all of the things.

Beyond the national statistics that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America and that 132 people die by suicide each day (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention), we see our neighbors, the grieving parents, who just said goodbye to their 14 year-old for the last time, or our grown friends who lost their parent to suicide. And we see this a lot.

While reading the numbers, seeing the faces, and hearing their stories is absolutely devastating, I say as a suicide loss survivor and a suicide attempt survivor, there is something that needs to be heard. … We can prevent this.

The work can be done at whichever level you feel most comfortable. Maybe you start with learning more about mental health and suicide prevention through Google or a research organization like AFSP.org. You can learn about healthy stress coping skills and make your own stress ball. (Hint: Contact me, and I’ll send you a free kit to make your own.)

For others, it might look like calling a friend or colleague who has been acting differently lately to really check in on them — beyond the usual “I’m fine” or “I’m tired.” And for the most devoted, you can host a training for your staff or group of friends on suicide prevention 101. You can ask your partner to join you in finding a counselor.

There are so many ways to get involved and be part of saving someone’s life — maybe even your own — and it often begins with a conversation. Despite societal myths, asking if someone is thinking of ending their life does not increase the risk. So take a moment to talk to the people you care about. You never know who needs someone. Everyone has a story, we just need to listen.