Author: Mary Harasym
Content warning: mention of suicidal thoughts and mental health stigma
Danish Suicide Prevention Hotline: +45 70 201 201 (Available 11-23h)
Canada Suicide Prevention Service Hotline: 1-833-456-4566 (Available 24/7)
September 10th is Suicide Prevention Day. In Canada and many other countries around the world, suicide is the #1 health related cause of death for young people. Being from Canada and knowing several people who have died by suicide, this is a topic that hits close to home, as I’m sure it does for many of you reading this. I’ve had periods in my life with suicidal thoughts and am aware of a number of friends who have too. The first time I shared with someone that I was having suicidal thoughts, I broke down, feeling overwhelmed with shame that despite having so many things in my life to be grateful for, I still did not feel well. While this is not an uncommon narrative, the all too pervasive stigma around mental health prevents people from talking about their mental health issues or suicidal thoughts. I, like many others felt it was a better option to keep my suicidal thoughts to myself than reach out to someone. This speaks volumes about the society we live in.
We are taught to keep quiet and struggle alone. This is clearly not working, as evidenced by the prevalence of suicide rates globally.
To prevent suicide we need to get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations.
People have suicidal thoughts and while they are not healthy, they are also nothing to be embarrassed, guilty, or ashamed about. Simply, they are an indication it’s time to talk to someone.
The goal of suicide prevention work is to have the conversation earlier and take mental health seriously. Your doctor wouldn’t wait till cancer developed to a later stage before intervening, just as they shouldn’t for mental health conditions. Screening for mental health conditions and public health campaigns must continue to foster hope and reach those most at risk.
There is without a doubt a need for national strategies to tackle suicide prevention accompanied by a culture shift towards discussing mental health and changing perceptions of mental illness. Suicide and mental health are taboo and difficult to talk about, therefore efforts to end mental health discrimination are critical. The UK has done some great work around ending mental health discrimination.
While social media use has its positive and negative effects on mental health it can provide a temporary feeling of connection when searching hashtags like: #realtalk #mentalhealth #suicideprevention.
Lastly, here are some online resources for suicide prevention and mental health promotion: