Day 6 (of 189) on #worlsuicidepreventionday #sicknotweak @sicknotweak @hattiegladwell
Even in elementary it is a topic worth reflection and consideration. As much as we would like suicide to remain a taboo topic in school, the more we talk about it, the less isolated those thinking of it will be.
The stereotype has been that suicides are teenage girls dealing with angst. The reality is much different. There is self harm (we dealt with too much of that last year) and then there is suicide (haven’t had to deal with this recently). There is a connection with mental wellness – especially anxiety depression and ptsd (I call the “p” personalized as I am thinking more and more that not many actually get to the “post” part of trauma….)
It can be heightened by misuse of drugs (even legal ones) and through chronic diseases.
Males are most at-risk.
In Canada, males from Nunavut are uncomfortably most at risk.
Are these surprising? Most of the people I know who have been suicidal have been indigenous. And male. I’ll admit I am including some “accidents” that we were never fully sure were actually accidental.
It’s tough in schools because there is a worry that “if we talk about it, it may make some people try it” – I still remember the worry that was in our university after the Curt Cobain suicide. If anything, it started some conversations about mental wellness but there was not a rush of 911 calls to our university emergency services.
Do people think about death? Absolutely! Most brains can only contemplate this for a few minutes – those with mental wellness concerns can tend to go a bit longer…some a lot longer; because it is the ultimate question that cannot be answered – what happens? Is it better? Worse? Different?
It’s one thing to wonder. It’s another to “actualize” – and despite social media, people don’t “snap” – but “time” is relative and sometimes moves faster or slower for those working inside their heads – so what can be “out of nowhere” for us may be a series of action-responses that may not be able to be “seen” and responded to.
One of the key questions is “is this a change in baseline” because sometimes people say they want to die a lot and don’t mean it – but when language changes we need to pay attention. The second key question is “is there a plan”. It’s one thing to want to die. It’s another to know how it will/could happen – but even then it can range from the implausible (a serial killer will pick me up as I hitchike and….” to the concerning “very detailed ideation”.
But I know “not talking about it” has never worked. It has been isolating and confirms to those vulnerable that indeed it is “just them”.
Blaming suicides has not been good either. Referring to suicides as cowards or weak does not address the underlying issues. Using these terms further fuels the sense that if someone is thinking suicidal thoughts then indeed they are worthless weak cowards. Why go on…..?
The more we can talk proactively and take advantage of people sharing their experiences and their mindsets (follow @heylandsberg & @hattiegladwell ) the easier it is to have empathy. It’s not easy. I have not experienced a suicidal thought – though I have wondered what is next…. I have not practiced self harm…. but I can understand why others would.
My advise for schools. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t disregard a cry for help but also don’t over-estimate what might be going on. The picture I used above was a child who has been thinking about his brain (autism) and thought about it (“but that was then, why do you want me to talk about it now”? He wondered) because he has questions and at the time (and from time to time) was curious. It’s not easy, but his plan was when he was 90. So….
But the conversation confirmed there was not an immediate risk. That we could continue some conversations. And a reminder that if he’s thinking about it – so are others….so we need to keep the conversations going. Not just on world suicide prevention day, this is just a starting point for alignment and working together to work towards better mental health for all (and ensuring that talking about it is not something to feel shame about).
Thank you to those who share their journeys. It helps us understand how we can better empathize with others who need help before “the worst that can happen” actually happens.