September 6, 2021

What you (probably) Didn’t Know about Suicide.


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“But on you will go

 though the weather be foul.

 On you will go

 though your enemies prowl.

 On you will go

 though the Hakken-Kraks howl.

 Onward up many

 a frightening creek,

 though your arms may get sore

 and your sneakers may leak.” ~ Dr. Seuss


September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day (less importantly, it is also my birthday).

Suicide. What a heavy word. 

Even if we haven’t been intimate with the word ourselves, we all know someone claimed or plagued by it. (Anthony Bourdain always comes to mind for me.)

According to WHO, “More than 700,000 people die by suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.”

It’s a tragedy of epic proportions. 

I hesitate to admit this, but I was once a person who said suicide was “selfish.” I’ve been in situations where I’ve been angry, ill-equipped, and entirely unable to help someone who was lost in the dark abyss of their pain. 

If you witnessed someone’s attempted suicide, untied them from a homemade noose, how do you think you’d feel?

It is hard for the people on the other end, but it is not the same. I feel aching guilt for saying that in the past. These are humans who would rather be “done” than “do” life.

This was once described to me as sitting in an ice-filled bathtub; you’re numb and in pain all at once. All the necessary tools to save yourself are scattered along the edge of this proverbial tub, but you simply can’t move. 

It never really made sense to me until I heard that. 

Whether I was overwhelmed by the situation as a whole or frustrated that I couldn’t be the “hero,” I was the one being selfish. Now, I realize I had actually contributed to the stigma around suicide and help-seeking. 

On a lesser scale, it’s the same concept when we isolate or shut down due to our traumas: we silence ourselves and try to push through the pain alone because we don’t want to appear weak. Because we don’t think anyone could ever understand, let alone love us. We think it makes us lesser-than, weak, undesirable. When, in reality, most of us are struggling in some way. 

“World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of suicide and to promote action through proven means that will reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts globally.” ~ International Suicide Prevention Association

Someone who is suicidal may feel trapped, afraid to be a burden to their friends, family, and those around them. They feel like they are alone and have no other options.

My birthday wish this year is that we change the narrative around suicide and equip ourselves to help those in need.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “While there is no single cause for suicide, there are risk factors and warning signs which may increase the likelihood of an attempt. Learning them can save lives.” 

Here are some things we need to keep an eye out for:

1. Talk

If a person talks about:

>> Killing themselves

>> Feeling hopeless

>> Having no reason to live

>> Being a burden to others

>> Feeling trapped

>> Unbearable pain

2. Behavior

Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss, or change:

>> Increased use of alcohol or drugs

>> Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods

>> Withdrawing from activities

>> Isolating from family and friends

>> Sleeping too much or too little

>> Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

>> Giving away prized possessions

>> Aggression

>> Fatigue

3. Mood

People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

>> Depression

>> Anxiety

>> Loss of interest

>> Irritability

>> Humiliation/Shame

>> Agitation/Anger

>> Relief/Sudden Improvement

And then there are “protective factors”:

>> Access to mental health care and being proactive about mental health

>> Feeling connected to family and community support

>> Problem-solving and coping skills

>> Limited access to lethal means

>> Cultural and religious beliefs that encourage connecting and help-seeking, discourage suicidal behavior, or create a strong sense of purpose or self-esteem

In sharing our deepest pains, we often find the deepest connections and hidden reserves of strength.

Click here to see how you can get involved in World Suicide Prevention Day 2021. 


If you (or someone you know) needs help:

1. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Find more information about the Lifeline at suicidepreventionlifeline.org


2. Veterans Crisis Line

Connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of them are Veterans themselves. Find more information about the Veterans Crisis Line at www.veteranscrisisline.net

800-273-8255 and press 1

3. Crisis Text Line

Text from anywhere in the United States to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.

Every texter is connected with a Crisis Counselor, a real-life human being trained to bring texters from a hot moment to a cool calm through active listening and collaborative problem-solving. Find more information about the Crisis Text Line at crisistextline.org 

Text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor for free, 24/7.

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