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We Must Talk About Suicide to Prevent It
As a mental health writer, I have talked about suicide a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. And that’s because I consider the subject critical to both the mental health community and society at large. It is simply unacceptable to me that one person dies of suicide every 40 seconds worldwide. And, as I’ve said before, I consider suicide preventable.
But I don’t believe we will be able to successfully prevent suicide until we learn to talk about it. No one wants to admit to thinking about suicide and that’s in spite of the fact that between 10-14 percent of the general population has considered it. That’s more than one-in-ten people that have contemplated something that we can’t bring ourselves to talk about.
And this shrouds suicide in a cloak of secrecy and ignorance. After all, it’s hard to be informed about a subject that people refuse to mention.
Why People Don’t Want to Talk About Suicide
People have logical reasons as to why they don’t want to talk about suicide. First off, no one likes to think about death and people certainly don’t like to think about the death of loved ones. That’s understandable. It’s the same reason people don’t talk about headstones, epitaphs and caskets. I get that, it’s morbid and sad, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth facing.
And unlike headstones, epitaphs and caskets, which people do often finally deal with in the late stages of life, there is no “appropriate” stage of life to talk about suicide. If there were a stage, it would be during childhood as that’s when some people start thinking about suicide.
People also have this illogical notion that if they ignore suicide the problem will go away, or at the very least, it won’t touch them. But this train of thought is similar to the idea that if we don’t talk about cancer, it will go away. With suicide being the 10th leading cause of death overall and the third leading cause of death in people between the ages of 15 to 24 in the United States, the fact is, if suicide hasn’t touched your life already, at some point, it will.
Our Silence is Costing Lives
So when a person faces thoughts of suicide they feel alone and feel there is no one they can talk to as they can’t overcome the taboo and shame that is driving the silence. This feeling of loneliness and not knowing where to turn can easily grow a suicidal thought into an attempt or even a suicide completion. Our own fear of the word “suicide” contributes to taking lives.
Talking About Suicide
But suicide doesn’t have to be taboo. Suicide doesn’t have to be a secret. Suicide doesn’t have to be a battle fought in the dark.
We tackle other topics like addiction, depression, contraception and cancer to help protect us and keep us healthy. And now it’s time we tackle suicide for the same reason; because using the silence approach isn’t working. Using the head-in-the-sand in the approach is costing tens-of-thousands of lives per year. Relying on ignorance to keep us safe is a myth.