Suicide prevention has a weird and almost uncomfortable stigma around it. No one wants to talk about it, no one wants to work at preventing it, unless, someone dies by suicide in their community. Then you scroll through Instagram, where people are reposting stories saying: “Know you are loved!”, “Don’t feel alone!” or “Anyone can talk to me, if they need it.” Then the next morning you walk down the halls, staring at posters taped hanging on lockers with hotline numbers and ways to get help.
Why is it that suicide is the only cause of death that people pay attention to only after they’ve been personally affected by it? We take a self defense course each year and we practice fire drills, but there is little action taken to prevent suicide, even though it is the second leading cause of death in teens, according to the National Institute of Health. We don’t wait for a fire to burst through the building to learn how to protect ourselves against its heat. Let’s not wait for depression to consume a son, aunt, or friend for us to prevent suicide.
Our society has normalized suicide in an odd way. When walking through the halls, students hear, “If there’s a pop quiz today, I’m gonna kill myself,” but it’s the same girl who reposted those Instagram stories. Social media is a great way to spread awareness, but it’s hypocrisy that makes people who are affected by suicide feel like no one really cares.
To them, talking about suicide could mean talking about the lowest, and most traumatizing part of their life; bringing it up so casually and meaninglessly could make them feel invalidated. If suicide is mentioned in a way to not be taken seriously, then how will people know to take it seriously when it matters the most?
Spreading awareness is useless if the next step of taking action to prevent suicide is ignored. We simply cannot prevent suicide if it is misconstrued as something meaningless to be used in everyday conversations. We can all do our part to prevent suicide, even if it is something simple.
Marian’s Mental Health Therapist, Mrs. Emily Jamber, reminds us that suicide prevention is important because “suicide can be prevented; that’s the biggest thing.”
Those struggling deeply with their mental health have a hard time feeling like they can relate or reach out to anyone. Suicide prevention is meant to thaw the uncomfortableness around talking about suicide. Normalizing being open and giving an outlet to those people who are struggling can help show them that there are other options and they shouldn’t have to fear being honest about their struggles.
Teachers have many students, so it can be hard for them to recognize when a student is showing signs of declining mental health. One way teachers can help students struggling with their mental health is by making their classroom a safe space. Sometimes it’s as simple as just starting the class with a conversation that is unrelated to school. Jamber explains, “if you allow conversations to happen in your classroom, kids are going to feel safer and they’re going to feel like ‘I’m okay to talk to this teacher.’”
Normalizing getting help for mental health has minimized the stigma around suicide. Jamber believes the stigma is starting to go away because people are saying that it’s normal to go to therapy and it can be beneficial for anyone, whether you struggle with mental illnesses or not.
Marian has taken action throughout the last couple of years to help prevent suicide by giving students outlets and support in school. Jamber is a very welcoming therapist available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for anyone to come talk to her. If any teachers or students have concerns about someone, Jamber advises them to let her know; it will be confidential and she can help that person get what they need.
The most important thing we can all do to help prevent suicide is learn the signs of suicidal ideation. Jamber says that when people are having suicidal ideations, they will drop seedlings into conversations showing how they feel to see if someone is going to pick up on it. If a loved one seems off or is showing signs of suicidal ideation, it’s never worth it to hope someone else will talk to them so you can avoid an uncomfortable conversation.
Showing people considering suicide that you notice them and telling them that you care for them could be the difference between putting on a black dress for a funeral or not. Nobody wants to see their loved ones crying over their death after they’ve spent days feeling invisible and alone. No one wants to be racking their brain wondering what they could’ve done or regretting not saying I love you before they hung up the phone.
Silently wondering why a friend has grown quiet or stopped going out on weekends while you wish they’d come talk to you is not caring about them. No one regrets being there for someone, so be there for them. It’s better to have a conversation that might be out of your comfort zone, than to wish you would’ve done something different.