How to Start a Conversation about Suicide
Trigger warning: suicide
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people aged 15-24 in the United States. However, there is still so much stigma around it, which prevents people from speaking about it and raising awareness about it. People are afraid that talking about suicide puts the idea in peoples’ heads, and thus more people will attempt it. However, research has shown that this is not the case. Some research studies have shown that exposure and discussion of suicide has actually been associated with lower risk of lethal suicide. Click here to read more.
We share hotline numbers, and it’s a start, but it’s not enough. We, as a society, need to learn how to be more open about mental health. We need to view health holistically; for example, more and more PCP’s are incorporating mental health into their regular patient checkups. Companies and schools are accepting mental health days off more and more so than ever before.
In a recent Ted Talk, Jeremy Forbes talks about how he began raising community awareness after his friend’s suicide, and how you can do the same. For example, he recommends hosting events at places in the community where people are already comfortable, making it less of a big deal or transition to come. (eg. he held his first community awareness event at a hardware store).
Click HERE for the full Ted Talk!
What can you do?
- Learn to recognize the warning signs Anxiety, sleep problems, substance use or risky behaviors, and withdrawal from friends and family are all key warning signs that can be addressed if you notice them in others.
- Validate others’ experiences with mental health Talk openly about your mental health, if you are comfortable doing so. Don’t pass judgment, and be willing to listen and reaffirm that help is available.
- Know the causes of suicide These include mood disorders (eg. depression and anxiety), family history of suicide, substance abuse, and significant losses in a person’s life.
- Avoid ultimatums and platitudes “It gets better.” “You are loved.” “If you don’t get help I’ll…” While these are all well-intentioned, the problem is that these are all difficult to believe from a suicidal head space, and will often be dismissed, as they don’t actually pose any help.
- Check up on your friends and people important to you You can guess at what other people are thinking and feeling, or you can just ask. More often than not, your friends will be willing to share their emotions with you if you ask, rather than feeling like a burden when reaching out.
It is a difficult conversation, yes. But silence is the enemy even more than this difficulty. Let’s talk about mental health. Let’s talk about suicide. Let’s open up this discussion.
Have you ever had a conversation about suicide with others? How do you think you can bring it up and begin the conversation?