I think it is important to keep in mind that #SuicidePrevention is so much more complex than people say… It is easy to say “Just reach out to someone!”
However, this makes it seem like:
1. You reach out
2. You are instantly helped/happy/cured.
That isn’t reality. The typical suicide prevention campaign really is an oversimplified, misleading view of suicide. Pushing this view over and over again may actually be damaging rather than helpful. If someone has reached out, yet STILL feels suicidal, they may think that there is no hope left. They may blame themselves, thinking something is wrong with them given that they still feel suicidal despite speaking up or reaching out. What this view fails to show is just how incredibly complex the issue is… something that will not be fixed by just one phone call or text. It would be great if suicide were that simple, but it is not.
Issues with making suicide prevention seem as simple as “Just Reach Out!” include:
- Only showing one type of story: The only stories which are highlighted in such campaigns are the “success” stories, the ones featuring ppl who attempt, instantly regret it, then live happily ever after. What about pretty much EVERY OTHER STORY? Do they not matter bc they aren’t inspirational? That is not proper representation.
- Help isn’t so simple: Even if people DO reach out, they MAY not be instantly helped. That’s not how it goes, unfortunately. Some ppl who reach out to friends/fam get really NEGATIVE reactions. “How can you be suicidal?? That’s so selfish/ungrateful, etc.” Some healthcare staff aren’t much better, honestly.
- Lack of resources: There are NOT enough resources in the mental health field. Even people who go to the psych ER for suicidal ideation/behavior may be turned away due to lack of beds. I’ve known someone who got sent home despite being actively suicidal (due to lack of beds). It’s terrible.
- Are you actually helping to create a better life… or just prevent death? Some people go on to attempt again. What are we doing about these people? Are we just taking away means to suicide… or are we working to actually IMPROVE their lives?
- Stigma exists & has consequences. Stigma prevents many people from seeking any help in the first place. Crises could’ve been prevented.
- Even attempts aren’t taken seriously. Too often suicidal behaviors are dismissed because they are not deemed SERIOUS enough. I’ve known someone whose attempt was not taken seriously because the self-harm was not lethal. I’ve known someone else who told a therapist about an attempt only to hear that it didn’t count.
So, during #SuicidePreventionAwarenessMonth, feel free to continue to do the traditional posts, the ones with the suicide hotlines & inspirational stories & cliche hopeful sayings.
However, also acknowledge the complexity of suicidality. Address underlying issues. Let’s do more than just tell people to reach out… Let’s create better lives.
P.S. Reaching out can be a great place to start. The issue is that campaigns make it seem much easier than it can be in real life. However, if you need help, there are resources which may help you! Please do not isolate yourself. Even if reaching out can be incredibly challenging, it can be the first step in the right direction.
Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255