This blog post contains wording about suicide that some may find triggering. If you need immediate support, please call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741.
Suicide prevention is a topic that matters very much to me.
Raising awareness about mental health trauma, specifically within faith and chronic pain communities, is a burden that God has laid on my heart. With suicide prevention day just past and as we make our way through September (suicide prevention month), it encourages me to know that there are other people who are just as passionate as I am about the help and hope that is available to those who are suffering.
I am in no way trying to discount the amazing work that people are doing.
However, I have personally noticed two blind spots that come up a lot, especially during suicide prevention month.
These are some of my thoughts that I hope will help you help others more effectively.
1. Suicide prevention needs to be a priority every day.
Awareness days/months are meant to be a positive thing, and they usually are. The problem is that people get comfortable with shoving suicide prevention in a box for 11 months out of the year. They only take it out to look at it for a while, then they put it back and pretend it doesn’t exist.
But depression doesn’t take days off.
We need to be prioritizing mental health awareness and suicide prevention daily.
If you don’t know where to start, this list of warning signs from Mayo Clinic may help you be more aware of the mental state of those around you.
If someone asks you for help, don’t shame them. Help them.
If you don’t know how to help, don’t panic. Ask someone else who knows what to do.
If you’re concerned for someone’s safety, don’t hesitate. Say something.
Most importantly, just be willing to listen to people with the love and respect they deserve as human beings. The feeling of being heard is a powerful thing. Be actively ready to listen and really hear what suicidal people have to say.
2. Encourage the struggling to reach out for help, but make sure you are actually prepared to help.
“Just ask for help” is a common mantra spoken over the suicidal from a well-meaning community of awareness raisers. I consider this problematic for two reasons.
The first reason is that asking for help when you are in the throes of mental trauma feels like an impossible task. There is nothing simple about reaching out for help if you are mentally ill. Even if you are surrounded by people who love and care about your wellbeing, there are always complications in the mind of someone who is suicidal and they are usually enough to keep that person from asking for help. Fear of judgement and the consequences that may come from asking for help are a real hurdle that often cannot be jumped. Because of this, saying “just ask for help” seems like a very tone-deaf suggestion to a hurting heart.
The second reason is that sometimes, even when a person bravely and desperately asks for help, they may not receive it. People are not perfect. All too often, suicidal people are treated with indifference and met with invalidation, even when they reach out for help.
So please, if you encourage someone to reach out for help, be ready to really help. There is nothing more discouraging than being told to seek help, asking for help, and then not being heard.
If someone comes to you and they are in need of more help than you can give them, consider offering to walk beside them (figuratively or literally) to ask for help from someone else as well, perhaps a doctor, therapist, or pastor.
Suicide prevention is a heavy topic, but we cannot afford to ignore it. There is grace, help, hope, and understanding for those who struggle. We must educate ourselves so that we can be helpful to the hurting instead of unintentionally adding to the pain.
If you have any questions about suicide prevention or awareness resources, please comment below. I’d love to talk to you.