It has been a week of suicide taking a prominent role in media. Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and the CDC releasing a report on the epidemic of suicide. As I have read many social media posts, especially about the two celebrity deaths, a theme of the posts is shock. People are shocked to hear of someone dying by suicide. Please stop being shocked. If suicide wasn’t rising, if suicide wasn’t twice as common as homicide, we would all be shocked, but that isn’t the case. Everyday, every hour suicide is impacting each of us… it is the neighbor down the street, it is the teenager at school, it is your doctor. So yes it is sad, it is tragic, it is horrible, but it is not shocking.
Many people have checked in on me this week because of the celebrity suicides. They are compassionate in wondering if I am doing OK. Honestly, this week has not hurt as much as the week a local teen killed themselves. It doesn’t hurt at the depth as it does when a friend messages me and says they lost a loved one to suicide. It doesn’t even compare to last week when I did the Overnight Walk and saw hundreds upon hundreds of luminaries for those who have died by suicide.
What does hurt when there is a suicide in national media is reading the painful ignorant comments about suicide and mental illness. Every time I read that suicide is selfish I go between wanting to cry and scream. When I read the philosophical argument about suicide, I realize how many people lack such a basic understanding of mental illness and suicide.
So I ask, please stop being shocked and start taking action. Action looks different for everyone and I am in no way saying you need to walk 18 miles, raise thousands of dollars (although that would be nice), or get on your local AFSP board. There are small ways in our everyday lives we can make a difference. Below are three very easy ways that don’t take much time, effort, and are free.
- Become an AFSP Advocate. Our government supports suicide research and programming at an embarrassing level. AFSP has made it beyond easy to stay updated and take action. To become and advocate, go here and sign up. When there is mental health legislation, you will get an email to contact your representatives and senators. You click on a link in an email, complete a form (one minute tops) and it will automatically send the email. Easy, easy, easy, with a big impact.
- Stop stigmatizing mental health. Every joke you make about someone being crazy, every time you tell a boy to man up, when you call suicide selfish, you are making yourself part of the problem. The only way we start to fight this epidemic is by erasing the stigma around getting help for mental health. Be a person others can come to when they are struggling instead of a person they avoid. Check yourself when you make comments (even not on purpose) about mental health. Just because you have never experienced depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts doesn’t mean it is not real.
- Be kind, LOVE LOUDER. Our society has become cruel is so many ways. Name calling and bullying are common practices online and have lasting impact. Check on your family and friends. Know the signs of suicide and look out for them in others. If you are worried about someone, ask if they are thinking of killing themselves. It is a myth that asking will plant an idea.
Suicide is being discussed very publicly this week, please be part of the proactive part of the discussion and don’t let the discussion stop. It will take all of us to fight this growing epidemic.