Suicide Prevention: Why “Just Reach Out” Isn’t Good Enough

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.

The End.

 

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.

 

 

Image result for suicide prevention reach out

 

 

Issues with making suicide prevention seem as simple as “Just Reach Out!” include:

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. Stigma exists & has consequences. Stigma prevents many people from seeking any help in the first place. Crises could’ve been prevented.
  6. 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

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

6 thoughts on “Suicide Prevention: Why “Just Reach Out” Isn’t Good Enough

  1. I couldn’t agree more with everything in your post!!! As someone who is both a suicide survivor, have had people I love make attempts and have also unfortunately lost loved ones to suicide…..it’s definitely defeating yo always hear that same message of “just reach out”. It’s way too simplified and puts entirely too much unnecessary pressure on the person who is suffering. People ferling depressed or in Austin crisis will naturally NOT want to reach out. By definition that is what our brains are preventing us from doing. I myself reinforce for others, friends and family to do the reaching out and checking in on the person who is suffering. We mostly suffer in silence because of the stigma attached to mental health issues. Here in this country, the United States, our healthcare system is really centered around sick care. The focus has not been on well care. I also feel that for those of us who find ourselves in need of a hospital stay, the cost of services can become a huge factor for not getting help. I have had that issues when I didn’t have insurance. Going into major debt is the last thing one needs when they already feel badly about themselves. Posts like yours are so refreshing, thank you for sharing this mindset!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing! I am sorry to hear that suicide has touched your life in so many ways. You definitely have a lot of insight, bringing up other valid points (shouldn’t place all of that “just reach out” responsibility on the suicidal person; hospital costs are a major hurdle for many). Thank you again for sharing!

      Like

    2. I wanted to write a post, but I also don’t want it to come across as negative (as if there ISN’T hope for those with suicidal thoughts/behaviors). I don’t think that the “just reach out” mentality is helpful; at the same time, reaching out definitely CAN be a major first step towards getting treatment.

      Like

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