The Problem with World Suicide Prevention Day

I mulled over whether I wanted to write this post, because I understand how sensitive and triggering suicide is, as a subject. We’ve lost celebrities, mental health advocates, and even personal loved ones to suicide, so the idea of having a World Suicide Prevention Day seems noble. On the day itself, my news feed was buttered with seemingly compassionate messages filled with prayers and love, mixed with suicide prevention hotlines.

That’s the thing with suicide prevention… it’s a lot more than sharing hotlines and making promises of being an open door for when troubles come. Prayers are never enough. There is commitment and burden that comes with making these promises.

Suicide prevention is realizing that one of your friends hasn’t surfaced in a few days. No texts, no social media updates, not a peep. It’s to reach out to them first, and saying, “I haven’t heard from you in a while. If you need some space, I hope you’re alright. Just remember that I’m only one text message away if you need someone to talk to. If I don’t respond immediately, I will text back when I see the message.”

It’s to encourage your ill loved one to seek help, which goes beyond simply telling them to get help. When someone is deep in the pits of depression and losing their grip, they’ve often given up on help, assuming that they are beyond it. A lost cause. These are the times where you have to figure out what insurance they have, find someone who accepts that insurance, and go with them to their first appointment. If they don’t have health insurance, there are free online options that may serve as a substitute until they are in a place to receive healthcare.

Preventing suicide includes saying something, when the people around you tell you that they’re feeling like they’re losing hope. Never make the assumption that someone is alright. You need to have the courage to pick up the phone and ask your local authorities to perform a wellness check, even if it means your friend will be upset with you.

What no one wants to say is that suicide prevention is usually a thankless role. You may become a punching bag or deemed as untrustworthy, because you took the initiative to call for help. Your body becomes a harbor of that person’s burdens and pain, which you will never truly be able to understand. There is no such thing as doing “enough” when we care for those who are actively (or even passively) suicidal.

That’s not to say that suicide prevention should be abandoned or overlooked. This is a reminder that you must be willing to follow through, should you ever reach out and make declarations that you are an open door to those who are suffering. These promises can’t be made from a place of selfishness (such as “I reposted this hotline so I did my good deed for suicide prevention”).

Since you are human, there is no way to do it all yourself. Remember that you can never shoulder the full burden of suicide prevention. You can only do what is within your means- picking up a phone call at a reasonable hour, taking someone to therapy when you have the time, and forwarding your loved one to support groups and communities that are built for the sole purpose of helping.

Suicide prevention is a larger goal, where singular human beings are a minor, but important, piece of a bigger puzzle. To speak out and advocate on behalf of suicide prevention is to put yourself in the role of a caretaker. It’s to say that you’ll be there and you’ll do your part to help those who can’t take care of themselves. This is a commitment and a promise.