Suicide has been in the news a lot this week with the sad passing of Robin Williams. People from all walks of life have been surprised to learn how much the death of an actor has affected them. This week, and perhaps for another week more, the media will talk about depression, mental illness and suicide prevention.
I have worked for a community college mental health counseling center since 2007. In addition to working one on one with students, we work on a campus-wide basis to raise awareness, fight stigma, and promote mental wellness. Typically in any given year, we also sponsor one or two fairs around wellness. During National Suicide Prevention Week (the 2nd week of September) we often hold suicide prevention awareness events, including speakers and a resource fair or community agencies.
Although I only vaguely remember it, I was quoted by the school newspaper saying “Suicide is 100% Preventable” in 2011. This week, I had someone reach out to me in a disagreement.
Ronnie, the Founder & Executive Director of Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors, was concerned about the message. She was respectful and thoughtful and wanted to share her thought. She wrote, “As a counselor and as a survivor of loss, I truly appreciate the enormous commitment you have to helping others and preventing suicide. I wanted to share some thoughts that I had around this issue of 100% preventable. They are slightly different. I believe we may be doing a great disservice to the millions left behind, who question what they could have done and feel very guilty because of such statements.”
She also shared a link to an essay she wrote on this subject. Please have a read, as it is more nuanced than my off the cuff statement to the school reporter.
My thoughts today? Suicide IS preventable. But nothing in this world is 100%. The only person who can truly prevent suicide is the person considering it. Survivors of suicide usually face self blame and criticism, a constant self-questioning of what else could’ve been done. I don’t wish to contribute to their self blame.
Yet, how can we help make suicide preventable?
- Talk to our friends and loved ones.
- Educate our children and coworkers.
- Make getting help and counseling a normal, everyday thing, like going to the dentist.
- Save the following phone number in your cell phone, whether you have ever contemplated the thought of suicide or not: 800-273-TALK (8255).
- Download the MY3 App and explore their website for safety planning.
“Suicide IS preventable. But nothing in this world is 100%. The only person who can truly prevent suicide is the person considering it.”