What is Suicide Prevention Day?
Tomorrow, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day, on which many different mental health and charity organisations around the world try to spread awareness about suicide. Every year has a different theme, and this year’s is “Creating Hope Through Action”. There is an initiative called “Light a Candle”, where individuals are encouraged to light a candle from 8pm - 10pm to commemorate the many deaths by suicide, as well as survivors and family members.
History of Suicide Prevention Day
The first World Suicide Prevention Day in 2003 was started by the International Association for Suicide Prevention, with the sponsorship of the World Health Organisation. This was to raise awareness on suicide, collect more data on suicide and implement policies around the world for suicide prevention.
Why is Suicide Awareness Important?
Suicide is an issue that is often talked about, but not much is done to tackle it. In this decade, overall suicide rates have gone up by almost 20%. Chances are, you know someone with a mental illness - a survey done in the US shows that 1 in 5 Americans suffer from a mental illness. Even the mental health industry is booming: there are 10,000 apps in the app store that claim to help mental health.
Despite all of this, there are barely any actual policies in place for mental health. In the US, almost half of the people in need of mental health assistance do not receive it because of the policies that prevent it, whether it be insufficient health insurance, or lack of specialists in the field. 93% of Americans believe that suicide can be prevented, and raising awareness is one step in the correct direction.
How We Can Break The Stigma Around Mental Illness/Suicide
While there are many different reasons why suicide is such a large issue, the 10th leading cause of death in the world, a big reason why so many signs of suicidal ideation go “unnoticed” is because of the large stigma around mental illnesses. And though breaking the stigma is a long process, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has given us a list of things we can do to slowly push the process forward:
Encourage equality between physical health and mental health
We often talk about our physical health issues, like a broken ankle or a headache, but when it comes to mental health issues, we often do not choose to bring it up in conversation. By doing so instead, it can bring mental health to the forefront, and encourage more discussion on suicide, hopefully leading to meaningful, large scale changes on the perception of physical and mental health.
Be honest about your experiences - choose empowerment over shame
Many people shy away from talking about suicide and mental health due to feeling ashamed, which is why it is very important to talk about your own experiences without shame, and instead, take pride in it, so others can follow your example.
Be compassionate to those with mental illnesses
This applies both to people with mental illnesses and without. Many people discriminate against those with mental illnesses, seeing them as weak, or less than, when it is simply not true. Instead of looking down on them or making jokes about them, just inviting them to a conversation or sitting down and really listening to their experiences can make a huge difference.
What We Hope Suicide Awareness Can Achieve
Start a Discussion on Suicide
Many people are afraid to talk about their concerns because they’re afraid of instigating suicide. According to Bradley Bogdan, a clinical social work supervisor at the Department for Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at the Texas A&M School of Medicine, there is actually no evidence that talking about suicide openly or asking someone if they have thoughts of suicide actually leads to increased rates of suicide.
Implement Positive Policies Regarding Mental Health
An example of this is the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which was suggested by Patrick Kennedy in Congress, due to his own experiences with mental health issues and addiction. It basically made it illegal for insurance companies to view mental health as less important than physical health, and though it has not been an overall successful policy, it is another step in the correct direction towards full suicide prevention.