Let’s end the stigma and start the healing.
I am posting today in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day. Most of us know the party line…..suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Yet, as is the case with most complex emotional issues, that very simple statement just scratches the surface of the issue. According to the American Academy of Suicidology (AAS) , there is one suicide on this planet every 40 seconds. The rate in the United States is 12 per 100,000 people. Sobering numbers indeed. For as large as a problem a suicide is ( 13th leading cause of death worldwide) there remains a huge stigma attached to it and startling misinformation.
Suicide is not something that any of us can afford to think only happens to “them”. Actually, new research indicates that as many as one in six people have had thoughts of suicide at one time or another in their life. One in six. Suicidal ideation. Let that sink in a bit. One in six. This means that suicide knows no boundaries. It is not defined by age, race, gender, religious affiliation, economic status, sexual orientation, or abilities. Studies into this leading cause of death are ongoing and, of course, more studies are needed. The AAS developed a very helpful mnemonic device for alerting all of us to the warning signs of suicide. IS PATH WARM.
- I….. Ideation ( suicidal thoughts)
- S…..Substance Abuse
- M…..Mood Changes
Now you know the signs, what can you do to help? One of the best ways to aid a person struggling with this issue is to enhance your compassion and practice active listening. There are too many tales of isolated desperate individuals being patronized, marginalized, or just plain ignored by others. Some of this might be due to our fear…..fear of saying or doing the ‘wrong” thing, fear of the person being “contagious”. The solution to this type of fear when encountering a person needing help is to offer a referral. Don’t clam up. Don’t mumble and then run away. Simply offer that the person might call 1-800-273- TALK. The one in six of us struggling with ideation are keenly aware when the people we are speaking with are NOT fully engaged with us…..NOT really listening…..NOT truly present. Often this is misinterpreted to mean that the person just does not care. Sadly, this helps no one heal and potentially creates more harm. The people who make up the “one in six” are NOT evil people seeking eternal damnation, they are people just like you. Just like me.
A most prominent human development strategist and success coach of our time, Tony Robbins, has stated that we all have six human needs. These needs are as follows:
All of us have these six needs. All of us. So here is my proposal; a way to help those who show the warning signs of suicide…..help them see the way they can have one of those six. Just one in six. Maybe number four…..human connection, knowing that there is someone else out there that knows you matter. Maybe number one…..helping them see that each and every day the sun rises and we have the choice to begin anew. The point is not to ignore the pain of your fellow human soul. Let’s end the stigma and start the healing.