Saturday, September 01, 2018

Helping to Prevent Suicide Only Takes Moments

Knights Jousting by Howard Pyle

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This means that your social media timelines will suddenly be filled with celebrities sharing the national hotline. The cynic in you may roll your eyes. These celebrities will care very, very deeply in 280 characters; lots of their "show somebody you care" posts will gets thousands of likes and reposts, but where were they on August 31st? Where will they be on October 1st? Chasing a new cause, probably. Mounting their social media steed and charging to the next virtue signal over the hill beyond while shouting, "Don't forget to like and retweet!"

With the sea of hotline tweets will come angry killjoys ranting about how these celebrities don't really care, or they don't care enough, or those hotlines are terrible and they trace your call and alert the police so don't call them guys!

It can all be a bit much.

Personally, I think it's wonderful that celebrities take time out to share the national hotline with their followers. Even if the celebrity doesn't care (and who are we to decide that from the moral might of our phones & keyboards), that number will be seen by millions of users. Surely somebody out there needs to see it. The problem with suicide prevention is that we find out about the problem when it's too late to do anything about it. Broadcasting the national suicide prevention hotline can only be a good thing.

But, the detractors have a point. Sometimes, a call to a call center isn't what a person needs. Sometimes they need a strong emotional network to rely on.

This is why I encourage you to touch base regularly with people that you know who struggle with depression. Don't put them on the spot, shouting, "Don't kill yourself! Your life has meaning, my dude!" They're not going to appreciate you confronting them like that. From my own experience, telling people you want to end your life is a very hard thing to do. It can be terrifying, in fact. Being silent is the easiest solution as a result of that fear. There's no rejection and no recrimination that way. Unfortunately, shutting others out is exactly the wrong thing to do. The dark voices echo louder in a mind that is isolated and alone.

Instead, play the long game. Take a moment out of your day every few days to keep that contact healthy. Gently check in on how they're doing, and be patient. Not every person who suffers from depression also struggles with suicidal ideation, but how are you to tell? Keep in mind that the depressive you talk with might smile and tell you everything is hunky-dory. This is why you need to regularly touch base with them. Only over time can you establish a rapport that is built on trust. Otherwise, you're just checking in on them with all the compassion of a dock worker checking off a shipping manifest.

By establishing a relationship, they may turn to you when their thoughts take a dark turn. Obviously, you are not responsible for the choices that they make, but if you do your best to offer a life line, and you are sincere, they just might grab ahold.

I've written a book that gives insight into how the suicidal mind thinks by using old blog entries of mine as test cases. Each chapter covers different ways that suicidal ideation manifests itself, but offers tips and suggestions for both those who struggle, as well as their loved ones. You can buy or rent it here.