TW: This post talks about Suicide

September is #NationalSuicidePreventionMonth in the U.S.

I think every month should be so designated. My reasoning is rooted in the fact that over the last 12 months nearly 800,000 people worldwide have died by their own hand. This stunning statistic includes virtually every country, culture and age group on the planet.

For example, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people 15-29 years old. Scan any online mental health community and you are very likely to find a great number of young people expressing a desire to end their own lives rather than live with ongoing and excruciating emotional pain. But it’s not just teens and young adults that are so vulnerable. Suicide ideation, attempts and completion occur across all age groups and ethnicities

The pain and desperation these millions of people experience is typically associated with a serious mental disorder such as borderline personality disorders, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia or an eating disorder as well as other chronic conditions.

Difficult life situations such as these can trigger a strong emotional reaction that may lead to a suicide attempt. When people start to downward spiral its like going down a rabbit hole and they reach bottom its totally dark and they can’t see any way out.

How do people get to that point? Viewed from an evolutionary perspective the answer to that question almost seems to defy logic.

At its most basic level, the strongest of human instincts is to survive. This drive to exist is so fundamentally important to humans that many, if not most societies and cultures forbid the taking of one’s own life. Similarly, many influential social institutions, particularly religious ones, rail against the notion. Attempters may be jailed or involuntarily hospitalized. Completers would be ostracized by their religions and even barred from affiliated cemeteries. Additionally, suicide was a source of great shame for the survivors and families.

Two prominent Brazilian psychiatrists recently wrote an article on the Psychology Today website about the historic cultural stigmas associated with suicide and the unintended consequences those taboos have created in modern times.

Their point is that, since suicidal behavior has been and continues to be so highly stigmatized, it’s very difficult for people to ask for help.

But there are resources to help people climb out and get back into the light.

For example, there is a directory of intervention services around the world where people who are feeling urges to self-harm can find available support in their own country.

There is also a  text-based global crisis intervention service that is being developed.

Such crisis intervention resources are highly effective in an emotional crisis. But they are just the first step. There is also the very real hard work that is required in the following days, weeks and months.

Marsha Linehan, the developer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy struggled with suicidal thoughts in her own life. In this interview with Ursula Whiteside, founder of the the crisis website, Dr. Linehan explains her own struggles to build a life worth living.

Remember, there is always hope and help no matter how much emotional pain a person may be in. They just need the motivation to keep going and know that they are never alone in their struggles.


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