World Suicide Prevention Day is an awareness day observed on September 10th every year, in order to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides, with various activities around the world since 2003.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every 40 seconds someone takes their own life. That’s about 800,000 people worldwide every year — although some estimates put that number closer to 1 million.
Last year on this day I put up a post with text lifted directly (with permission obvs!) from the Befrienders Kenya website that you can check out here in case you missed it. Befrienders are a charitable organization focusing on suicide prevention by offering emotional support to those who may be in distress and therefore in danger of dying by suicide as well as creating awareness on suicide within communities. It is so far, the only organization in Kenya with a specific focus on suicide prevention.
It is widely known that certain behaviours indicate the possibility of suicide and if we learn the warning signs and spot them early enough, we can take action. On that note, while doing research for today’s post I came across pertinent information from two different websites that I am sharing below because to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
- Ask direct questions
Even though it’s hard, ask a person directly if they’re thinking about suicide.
2. Listen to their answers
People with suicidal thoughts often feel alone, so be sure to let them know that you care deeply about what they have to say.
3. Do a safety check
If you’re concerned for their well-being, try removing anything they could use to harm themselves, such as alcohol, drugs, medications, weapons, and even access to a car.
4. Don’t keep this a secret
Let them know you’ll help come up with a plan that involves telling a professional who can utilize the many services and resources available to help.
5. Ensure they seek professional help
Unless you work in the mental health industry, it’s important to suggest they seek additional help from other people, such as a doctor, counselor, psychologist or social worker.
Knowing how to get help for a friend posting suicidal messages on social media can save a life. Many social media sites have a process to report suicidal content and get help for the person posting the message. In addition, many of the social media sites use their analytic capabilities to identify and help report suicidal posts.
Each offers different options on how to respond if you see concerning posts about suicide. Below are the links to suicide prevention resources for several social media sites:
- Facebook Suicide Prevention (use the search term “suicide” or “suicide prevention”)
- Instagram (use the search term, “suicide,” self-injury,” or “suicide prevention”)
- Snapchat Support (use the search term, “suicide” or “suicide prevention”)
- Tumblr Counseling and Prevention Resources (use the search term “counseling” or “prevention,” then click on “Counseling and prevention resources”)
- Twitter’s Best Practices in Dealing With Self-Harm and Suicide (use the search term “suicide,” “self-harm,” or “suicide prevention”)
- YouTube’s Safety Center (use the search term “suicide and self injury”)
I understand that suicide is a taboo topic in society, but just because we do not speak about suicide openly does not mean it does not exist. Just because we do not speak about suicide openly does not mean we can erase it with our silence. Taboo topics like suicide thrive on the silence the stigma surrounding them creates and so talking about suicide is an important first step in ridding society of the idea that mental health issues should remain hidden. World Suicide Prevention Day is a reminder that society needs consistent and increasing advocacy for mental health resources so that people struggling with mental health disorders can get the help they need.
As a society we all have a role to play in increasing awareness about suicidal behaviours and how to effectively prevent them. Which is why, seeing as September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, I will be doing a Q&A with my therapist Dr. Frida Kameti in lieu of the usual guest posts that go up every month. The Q&A will be up on the 23rd so kindly look out for it and share widely among your circles because as I mentioned earlier, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.