From 1999 through 2016, suicide rates have increased by as much as 30% in some states. According to the CDC, 45,ooo people took their own lives in 2016 alone. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. but no one is talking about it. A hush surrounds the discussion because many people are afraid to even say the word. There is a misconception that talking about suicide might encourage others to attempt it: however, this isn’t true. By starting the conversation about suicide, you can reach out to those who are struggling and help them feel less alone. There are several things to keep in mind before you start the conversation:
Address it like someone in the room is struggling
When talking about hard topics, we are tempted to address it as if it is something that does not effect us or anyone around us. By doing this, we are othering the topic. This makes it harder for the people around you to talk about their own struggles; they may fear judgement or rejection. Instead, approach suicide gently and leave others room to offer up their own experiences. By being open to the conversation, you can encourage others to share.
Avoid blame and judgement
A common word that comes into play while talking about suicide is “selfish.” Avoid claiming that suicide is selfish and avoid judging the sufferer for their struggles. Mental health challenges are not something that a person has control over, nor do they choose to face these challenges. Negative language like this can make the person feel isolated. When talking about suicide, always be as compassionate and open as possible.
Share what you’re struggling with
If you or a close family member has struggled with suicidal thoughts or actions, sharing your story may help others feel comfortable sharing their own. When people share their mental health challenges, it encourages others to do the same and helps reduce stigma surrounding mental health. By sharing, you can also help build support systems and connect with others.
If someone has disclosed to you that they are contemplating suicide, the best approach is to be direct. Ask them if they have a plan for how to take their own life. The specificity of their plan can reveal how serious they are and if they need immediate intervention. Even if someone has not come to you, don’t be afraid to check in with the people in your life. A simple “how are you doing?” or “you seem distant, is everything okay?” can let others know that they are not alone.
Talking about suicide may feel uncomfortable
Suicide is a hard thing to talk about. The conversation can feel very uncomfortable, but it is still important to talk about it. By starting the conversation, you are creating a space for others to share; it may be uncomfortable, but you are reducing stigma and reaching out to others who may be contemplating suicide. A little discomfort will be worth it if you are able to save a life by reaching out.
If you or someone you know feels hopeless or like they have no reason to live, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for help and support.
Text CONNECT to 741741 to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.