Springdale area residents join worldwide effort to prevent suicide
SPRINGDALE, NL — Every year, more than 800,000 people die by suicide, and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt.
Behind these statistics, provided by the organizers of World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10), are the individual stories of those who have, for many different reasons, questioned the value of their own lives.
Each one of these individuals is part of a community. Some may be well linked into this community with a network of family, friends, work colleagues or schoolmates. Others may be less connected, and some may be quite isolated. Regardless of circumstances, communities have an important role to play in supporting those who are vulnerable.
This sentiment is reflected in the theme of the 2017 World Suicide Prevention Day, “Take a minute, change a life.” As members of communities, it is our responsibility to look out for those who may be struggling, check in with them, and encourage them to tell their story in their own way and at their own pace. Offering a gentle word of support and listening in a non-judgemental way can make all the difference.
Taking a minute can change a life
People who have lived through a suicide attempt have much to teach us about the importance of the words and actions of others. They often talk about reaching the point where they could see no alternative but to take their own life, and about the days, hours and minutes leading up to this. They often describe realising they did not want to die, but instead wanted someone to intervene and stop them. Many say they actively sought someone who would sense their despair and ask them whether they were okay.
Some say they made a pact with themselves that if someone did ask if they were okay, they would tell them everything and allow them to intervene. Sadly, they often reflect that nobody asked.
The individuals telling these stories are inspirational. Many of them recount reaching the point where they did try to take their own lives, and tell about coming through it. Many are now working as advocates for suicide prevention. Almost universally, they say if someone had taken a minute, the trajectory they were on could have been interrupted.
Life is precious and sometimes precarious. Taking a minute to reach out to someone — a stranger or close family member or friend — can change the course of their life.
Nobody has to have all the answers
People are often reluctant to intervene, even if they are quite concerned about someone. There are many reasons for this, not least that they fear they will not know what to say. It is important to remember, however, there is no hard and fast formula. Individuals who have come through an episode of severe suicidal thinking often say they were not looking for specific advice, but compassion and empathy from others helped to turn things around for them and point them towards recovery.
Another factor that deters people from starting the conversation is fear they may make the situation worse. Again, this hesitation is understandable — broaching the topic of suicide is difficult and there is a myth that talking about suicide with someone can put the idea into their head or trigger the act.
Evidence suggests this is not the case. Caring and listening with a non-judgemental ear are far more likely to reduce distress than exacerbate it.
Resources are available
Various well-established resources are designed to equip people to communicate effectively with those who might be vulnerable to suicide. Mental health first aid, for example, is premised on the idea that many people know what to do if they encounter someone who has had a physical health emergency, like a heart attack (dial an ambulance, administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation), but feel out of their depth if they are faced with someone experiencing a mental or emotional crisis. Mental health first aid teaches a range of skills, including how to provide initial support to someone in these circumstances. Relevant resources can be found on the websites of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (https:// www.iasp.info/resources) and the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int).
World Suicide Prevention Day
2017 marks the 15th World Suicide Prevention Day. The day was first recognised in 2003 as an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention and endorsed by the World Health Organization. World Suicide Prevention Day takes place each year Sept. 10, when people around the world work towards the common goal of preventing suicide.
Josh Stevenson, Vanessa Falconer and Sharon Pelley joined in the World Suicide Prevention Night walk and candle vigil in Springdale Monday evening.
The suicide prevention event in Springdale included a walk by the participants.