World Suicide Prevention Day

Today, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, writes in The Huffington Post on how we can work end suicide. From his article:

Most people don’t believe suicide can be prevented — they don’t even think of suicide as the fatal outcome of a health issue. The reality is that, at the time of their death, most people who die by suicide have a mental health problem like depression. To put it another way, people can die from untreated depression in the same way that someone can die from heart disease if it goes untreated.

So what’s the answer? The answer includes a greater investment in research, education and advocacy. We need to raise awareness to change attitudes about mental health, and we must improve our understanding of the causes of suicide and find better ways to prevent.

While those of us in the field of suicide prevention are working in all of these areas, we must do more to encourage those who are struggling to get help. To do that we need to change the culture from one where people are embarrassed to seek help, to one where everyone knows that taking care of your mental health is the smart thing to do.

To understand how big of an impact raising awareness could make in suicide prevention, consider these three facts. First, though the causes of suicide are complex, over 9 out of 10 people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness at the time of their death. Second, although finding the right care matters, mental health treatment works. And third, only 1 in 5 people who struggle with mental health problems seek treatment.

We must invest in science to develop more effective clinical care, but if we encourage even 3 out of 5 people to seek treatment, lives will be saved and the quality of even more lives will improve.

Episcopal News Service has two articles on the subject, both written by Pat McCaughan:

“Episcopalians seek to erase stigma of suicide, inspire church advocacy”:

The much-publicized Aug. 11 death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, an Episcopalian, epitomizes the misunderstandings and stigmas about suicide and the mental illness that frequently fuels it, according to (The Rev. Elaine Ellis) Thomas.

According to AFSP statistics, about 60 percent of those who die by suicide suffer from major depression; if alcoholism is factored into the equation, the number rises to 75 percent.

One misconception, said Thomas, is that suicide is a choice. “Williams was very open about his struggle with addiction and depression, which go hand in hand,” she said. “But even he reached a point where there was no way forward for him, and it was not him making the choice. I want people to understand that people don’t choose to do this. It’s not a rational act. It’s the illness making the choice for the person who is suffering.”

It is hugely tragic, she added, “that here is this wonderful, full-of-life person who brought such joy to so many lives but could not have that joy in his own life.”

Brightening the spirits, breaking the silence: Indigenous ministries tackle suicide

The United States and Canada may be separated by a border but Native Americans on both sides of it share a deadly reality: their rate of suicide surpasses that of the general population.

So much so that “we recently had an international consultation with people both from the States and Canada here at Six Nations” near Brantford, Ontario, according to the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, the Anglican Church of Canada’s national indigenous bishop.

“We realize there’s an official border between us, but we’re dealing with many of the same issues,” he said. “In general terms, there’s a much higher suicide rate among indigenous people in North America than the general population (see related story here) and the causes are many and complex.”

For example, said MacDonald: “every single person at this international gathering had been struck by suicide in a very intimate and personal way, so there’s just a sense that it never goes away. It’s just always there and it’s a tormenting reality for most indigenous people.”

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