Suicide Prevention, Not Awareness

This week was Suicide Prevention Day, and like I always say about day-specific awareness campaigns, it should be a full time job.

Waiting to create large marketing campaigns for charities and companies to blast out for 24 hours to show they’re ‘doing their bit’ is a foreign concept to me, and not one I like to celebrate.

Mental health awareness – be it a specific illness, the general concept or suicide and self harm – is an every day thing; just like it is for those suffering from these thoughts, feelings and illnesses.

To normalise these ideas for everyone, I understand is a challenge, and the awareness lies on a tricky thread between normalising and glorifying.

After Season Two of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, I stumbled upon a review which hit the nail the on the absolute head: The season – which is, let’s face it, no longer based on the book of the same name – dives deeper into character development, shows us scenarios from new perspectives (which almost says ‘Hannah was overreacting or misinterpreting things’) and most stupidly offers us this weird after-life relationship between Ghost Hannah and Clay.

And that’s where the issue lies.

I was all for showing the devastating end of Hannah’s life in the first season; other than offering the opportunity for Copycat Suicide (a media law which means reporters cannot state how a victim chose to take their life, in the hope to not encourage others and give them the idea to do the same), I thought it was very well done. I thought the real shock factor, and the mum’s reaction were perfect, and just what the ending needed to get the point across.

But this ongoing conversation between ghost Hannah and Clay glorifies suicide into a ‘second chance’ kind of thing.

But there isn’t a second chance.

– In a recent vlog series, Alfie Deyes visits the country’s most haunted prisons. There’s a row of 5 cells that in less than a year, was home to 5 suicides. The idea, or the reason behind it seemed to be that seeing or knowing someone else has committed suicide, gave others the confidence or final push they needed to do it too; it takes away that tiny part of them holding on with the quick affirmation of ‘if they can do it, I can’. Which is why I think it’s extremely important in our Prevention campaigns to actually spend time with those that are there in the aftermath; those who might be hurting from losing their friend or loved one.

And while I’m on a role with sharing snippets of work from other bloggers/vloggers, this video explains What It Feels Like To Die. She says that in the last moments, you’re not going to be ‘at peace’ with death, you’re supposed to want to live and the feeling of not wanting to die becomes overwhelming. Although her case was entirely different from suicide and mental health, this concept of realising we are alive might be something to use to help those remember that there is still a tiny part of them – however small – that does want to be alive, and we need hone in on why that is and use it to strengthen them to get through the bad.

I always have an opinion on these kinds of things, and one of my absolute peeves with the way we handle those with suicidal thoughts and plans is how we put the responsibility on that person; they have to get the help, and they have to help themselves.

I’ve been in the doctors hoping to get new medications to make suicidal thoughts and feelings go away; drug me up till I feel no more, doctor! But there’s always two things that happen: They ask you if you’ve made any plans to go through with it (why they think you’d tell them honestly, who knows), and they give you some numbers to call if you feel like you’re going to go through with it.

Let’s just think how many of us would be willing to call a hospital or a Samaritan in our darkest times?

I don’t call people in my highest times, never mind speaking to people in my darkest.

And again, the onus is on us: We have to help ourselves, we have to pluck up the courage to call someone even though we’ve used all our strength to go to the doctors about it in the first place.

Instead, why can’t there be a Samaritan list in which they call each person to check in on them, once a day after being alerted by their doctor? Waiting for that routine call could be the last thing keeping someone alive, and it’s much easier to wait for a call than make one.

Another thing to do? We need to normalise it. And I don’t mean this in an awful ‘everybody’s doing it these days’ way. 18 people in the UK take their own life every day. I wouldn’t even want to look at the statistics for a larger country. And along with those 18, there’s probably hundreds of others self harming or pleading for help at the doctors.

In order for this to be seen as a real epidemic, it needs to be normalised; it’s happening everyday, it needs the attention everyday and so do those suffering. We need to feel like there’s an abundance of people to turn to; that our friends will know what to do and understand; and without educating people better, we can’t achieve this.

I say we bring Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention into the classroom; and not just for one lesson in a students entire school life. Create a compulsory General Studies or PSE module about it so people have simply starting skills to understand the easy bits:

– If someone pushes you away, don’t walk

– Take everything they say seriously and don’t mock it (until they’re okay with it)

– Symptoms, causes and preventions

And the educating doesn’t stop there. I feel like a lot of campaigns and prevention is focused around young people; around stopping kids and teens feeling certain ways, or preventing that. But what about the adults? What about the people who haven’t got teachers around identifying the symptoms? Those who live alone, those who seem withdrawn at work?

Education and prevention needs to be an ageless system and compulsory for everyone and every company.

It’s time to stop making ‘life’ the responsibility of those who feel they don’t want to live. It’s time to take that responsibility and turn it into empathy and help.

I don’t have any ways to help people stop feeling suicidal. Truth is, other than family and friends never giving up on them, there isn’t a hope in hell. And I’m sorry if that upsets anybody out there who believes ‘you are the only thing that can make yourself truly happy’ ‘at the end of the day you’ve only got yourself’. Because that’s exactly the issue. We can’t think that way.

You don’t just have yourself, no matter how lonely you feel.

Other people can make you happy, and those feelings that others give you aren’t meaningless

It isn’t your fault that you feel suicidal

It isn’t your job to pluck up the courage every time to pick up the phone to a Samaritan or hospital.

It isn’t your sole responsibility to fight those urges

We are all responsible for caring about everyone.

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