Brattleboro >> Saturday marks World Suicide Prevention Day, a day to create awareness of the preventable public health crisis of suicide. Every individual in a community can take an important role in preventing suicide.
The World Health Organization reports that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year – one person every 40 seconds. Up to 25 times that number make a suicide attempt. The tragic ripple effect means that there are many, many more people who have been bereaved by suicide or have been close to someone who has tried to take his or her own life.
The number of lives lost each year due to suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined.
World Suicide Prevention Day's 2016 theme - CONNECT, COMMUNICATE, CARE – is made up of the three words that are at the heart of suicide prevention, that can guide community members in how to help.
Connect: Fostering connections with those who have lost a loved one to suicide or have been suicidal themselves is crucial to furthering suicide prevention efforts. Social connectedness reduces the risk of suicide, so being there for someone who has become disconnected can be a life-saving act. Reaching out involves active listening and engaging with a person in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Connecting them with formal and informal supports may also help to prevent suicide. Individuals, organizations and communities all have a responsibility here.
Communicate: Open communication is vital to combat suicide. In many communities, suicide is shrouded in silence or spoken of only in hushed tones. But suicide needs to be discussed as we would any other public health issue if we are to dispel myths about it and reduce the stigma surrounding it. People who have come through an episode of extreme suicidal thinking often say that sensitively-managed conversations with others helped them on their course to recovery.
Care: All the connecting and communicating in the world will have no effect without the final ingredient – care. Community members need to make sure that policy-makers and planners care enough about suicide prevention to make it a priority, and to fund it at a level that is commensurate with its significance as a public health problem. Clinicians and other service providers need to care enough about it to make suicide prevention their core business. Individuals need to look out for others who may be struggling. Everyone needs to play a role in making sure communities care enough about it to be able to identify and support those who may be at heightened risk
Each year in the United States, National Suicide Prevention Week is held on the week surrounding September 10th – this year from September 5 through September 11. The theme of the week emphasizes just this: "Suicide Prevention is Everyone's Business!"
On Septt. 10, join with others around the world who are working towards the common goal of preventing suicide. Check in on someone you may be concerned about, and start a caring conversation with them, asking them how they're doing. Investigate ways of connecting with others who are trying to prevent suicide in your community, your state, your country, or internationally.
In Vermont, the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center can be found at www.vtspc.org and the Vermont Suicide Prevention Coalition meets quarterly.
If you are feeling suicidal, or are concerned about someone else, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org to text/chat.