There are some grim facts when looking at the topics of self-harm and suicide. They are hard topics to speak to and deserve the recognition of how humanly distant we all aim to remain by creating a taboo shield around them; locking those suffering in a space of silence. It is time to break free, to open up more dialogue, and especially during this time of crisis, make sure we are lending out a helping hand and checking in on those that may be on the other side of the screen.
The Numbers as reported by World Health Organization
- 800,000 people die each year due to suicide
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-19 year olds
- 79% of these deaths occur in low to middle income areas
Who is at RISK?
- People with mental health concerns. Examples are depression or substance use
- Those experiencing crisis, i.e. financial struggles, ending of relationships, chronic pain or illness, often utilize suicide or self-harm as an impulsive solution to a temporary problem that feels as if it has no solution.
- Those experiencing disaster, violence, abuse, loss and/or a sense of isolation.
- People that belong to a vulnerable group (one that experiences discrimination) such as: refugees, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQIA+, prisoners, etc.
Centre for Suicide Prevention speaks to the stigmas associated with suicide quite well. It examines the history of this action, as how it used to be a crime, or the religious views that associate it with an “ultimate sin”, these viewpoints influence the view and way we handle the issue of suicide to this day. The Centre points out that even the diction we choose stresses its “criminal” nature. To “commit” suicide aligns it with verbage used in a court of law. This perpetuates that these feelings and actions are wrong and shameful. Other words surrounding suicide by those who may be lucky enough to not struggle with these thoughts and feelings are: selfish, cowardly, attention-seeking, etc. This continues to create guilt and shame for those that are in pain and may need help; guilt, shame, or fear of rejection creates an even larger barrier to reaching out for help. Those that are partaking in the stigma around suicide often display behaviors such as distrust, applying stereotypes, disregarding, shunning and/or avoiding. It is on us to continue to change the words used around suicide, to open up to the conversation so that deaths can be prevented and help can be accessed and to put an end to the stigma that often inhibits so many people. Below is the link to the Centre for Suicide Prevention to read further on stigma and other educational resources.
COVID-19 and Suicide
With a global pandemic still lurking in our midst, this has added multiple stressors while it has reduced resources and coping mechanisms. A lack of routine may be difficult, isolation can be alarming, and for some of us, home was not a safe space and is now where we have to spend most of our time. Below there will be resources and updates provided. During this time it is important to remember that a higher level of stress and experiencing a more emotional state is completely normal with such uncertainty.
Resources: If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call:
A guide to resources, understanding yourself, finding a support group or counselor:
A directory for support groups for both suicide attempt survivors and suicide loss
Covid-19 and Coping
What is opening back up?
During Covid, many of us lost access to many of our coping mechanisms or are struggling with feelings of isolation. Governor Cuomo is working to open our state back up as quickly and safely as possible. Here are some activities that are now open:
*Please only attend if you do not have an underlying health condition and practice Covid-19 safety measures such as wearing a mask, maintaining a six foot distance and utilizing hand sanitizer.
- Yoga, tai chi, etc in parks across the state: https://www.albany.org/event/yoga-in-washington-park/31222/
- Self-care activities such as barbers, hair salons and nail salons
The following resource is one that I found incredibly helpful, so helpful that I am putting it down again; it covers coping techniques and access to ample resources. The links below are specifically directed toward Covid-19 and civil unrest but the site homepage provides great resources for many populations.
If you or a loved one seem to be struggling with depression, self-harm or suicidal thoughts. Make a safety plan together. A safety plan often encompasses written out coping techniques when someone is experiencing distressing emotions. Often, these ideas are hard to mentally access when we are in distress, so having access to solutions can often help begin de-escalation. On this written plan, provide safe spaces and phone numbers to call in times of crisis. Then provide professional numbers to contact in case of emergency. This allows someone autonomy as they move through this difficult emotional space. Keep the plan in an easy access space, like within your phone case, so it is with you at all times. Starting with a counselor is recommended as well if you or a loved one does not have access to one already, many of the resources above will help guide in finding a counselor that is right for you.
By: Adalyn Wilson, MHC Intern