Suicide is a difficult thing to grasp or absorb. That is partly because of ignorance about suicide, which in turn is driven by the stigma around suicide and mental illness. The truth is that there’s much that every one of us can do to prevent suicide, if we put out hearts and minds into it.
Many experts agree that fighting stigma has a big role in the effort. Suicide has complex causes, and often mental illness is a big factor. The stigma prevents too many people from seeking help, and prevents others from reaching out or providing appropriate support to people in need. A writer for The Mighty has this advice for us: “Talk about all of those topics that are taboo, get information, make them come alive, so if someone comes to you with a mental condition, they know you will listen.”
A good place to start, if you haven’t done so already, is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Its website provides quick resources about Suicide Risk Factors and Warning Signs, and how to Find Support if you are having thoughts of suicide or are worried about someone who might be at risk.
Want to help more? AFSP has a Take Action web page with opportunities to get involved in suicide prevention.
Facebook has enhanced and expanded the geographical reach of tools designed to rescue people whose social media behavior signals a possible intention to commit suicide. Facebook users can report a worrying post, receive guidance from trained experts on how to help their friend, and if evaluated as an immediate threat get instructions on how to alert emergency services. If deemed serious, the reporting will also trigger a stream of suggestions for getting help into the distressed person’s Facebook news feed.
Given the intense connection that many people have with social media—Facebook has about 1.4 billion users—some experts believe the new tools can have a tangible impact.
The Mighty has a good illustrated guide on how it works here.
The New York Times had a story on June 15 explaining how the new tools work.
Also read the report from the website of the University of Washington, whose Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention organization collaborated with Facebook on the tools. The new tools were announced at Compassion Research Day at Facebook headquarters on February 25.
The Mighty is an online community for people facing serious health conditions—and it offers a lively platform for sufferers of mental illnesses to share their experiences. According to The Mighty’s Who We Are page: “We’re creating a safe platform for our community to tell their stories, connect with others and raise support for the causes they believe in. We are stronger when we face adversity together, and we know it.”
Read a recent post, “What the Sadness of Depression Really Feels Like”:
Imagine you wake up in the morning and you feel as though, overnight, your heart has sunk into the pit of your stomach and stayed there, throbbing, until it becomes a dull but persistent ache that has spread to your entire body. Maybe it’s raining and you have a dentist appointment later that day, or maybe it’s a warm sunny day and you have plans to spend it in your favorite place with your best friends: it doesn’t matter. The entire world looks ominous through the lens of the depression. Whatever lurks beyond the door of the bedroom doesn’t feel safe. Sitting up and swinging your feet out of bed feels insurmountable, not because of the mind-numbing fatigue you feel but because it just hurts inside. Just pushing yourself up to turn off your alarm makes your insides clench with discomfort and fear.