Suicide: Prevention Resources and the Contagion of Hope
Last week I wrote a blog about resources for those left behind after a suicide, prompted by the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. In the media coverage afterwards, an article and then interview by Kirsten Powers of CNN really seemed powerful and hopeful. She talked about her own suicidal experiences and the steps she took to confront them. Powers decided to share her story after interviewing John Draper, Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline who said "If people are more open about talking about coping through suicidal experiences, and the media highlight those stories, the evidence is very clear that this has a very positive effect on getting people through a suicidal crisis.”
Are you in crisis or in need of support?
- Please call the Distress Centre of Toronto: 416-408-4357
- Text or Chat
- Survivor Support Program: 416-595-1716
- Distress and Crisis Ontario
Kirsten Powers' story deeply resonated with me. I recall having suicidal thoughts while waiting for the subway at Bloor and Yonge years ago. I was in a suit, had a knapsack, and started to walk to the edge of the platform and thought "the pain I'm feeling from loneliness and despair could be over right now." Luckily my feelings shifted and the impulse passed before I could do any self-harm. I backed up against the wall and waited for two or three trains to pass. Afterwards, I opened up to my doctor and got some helpful medicine and therapy. I can say now, 25 years later, I'm glad I did not take my own life.
- "What we have seen is actually studies that have shown that when people talk about their positive coping through suicidal moments and they share them with the media or in a public forum, it's been associated with a reduction in suicide rates. It's basically a contagion of hope that we can spread."
Please remember that there is help available and the Canada Suicide Prevention Service is available 24 hours a day by phone, text or chat:
- In French: Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
- Text: 45645
Frank and public discussions about suicide and mental illness will ultimately lessen the stigma and shame around them and hopefully reduce the deaths. However, not every person who is depressed will be suicidal, and not every suicidal person will have a mental illness. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 54% of people who died by suicide did not have known mental health conditions.
If you're struggling with thoughts of suicide or have a loved one who is, the Library can offer many resources and be a place to turn for help. There are also many many online resources as well, but one that seems especially detailed is A Suicide Prevention Guide by Bestcolleges.com. I did want to share their disclaimer: "The following is intended as an information resource only; we are not a medical organization and we cannot give medical advice. If you are experiencing a life threatening situation, seek medical help or dial 911."
Suicide Prevention: "The message and purpose of this book is both simple and essential: with a little knowledge and awareness, you can help save a life. This book provides details in recognizing the warning signs of someone who may be suicidal, and specific steps in how to intervene and prevent a suicide. Written specifically for mature high school students and college-aged individuals, Suicide Prevention will enable readers to understand why someone may be suicidal. It also empowers readers to give a suicidal individual hope and explains how to get that person help. The book explains why suicidal thoughts may develop and presents interventions for concerned others to help the suicidal person shift their mindset of hopelessness and find resources to heal."
Thinking About Suicide: Contemplating and Comprehending the Urge to Die: "The literature of suicidology has studiously ignored those who actually experience suicidal feelings. Webb suggests this is no accident but a very deliberate exclusion of this critically important first-person knowledge. Webb rejects the medical model that claims suicide is caused by some notional mental illness, and discusses the spiritual wisdom that released him from the persistent urge to die"
Why Suicide?: Questions and Answers About Suicide, Suicide Prevention, and Coping with the Suicide of Someone You Know: "Eric Marcus offers thoughtful answers to scores of questions about this complex, painful issue, from how to recognize the signs of someone who is suicidal to strategies for coping in the aftermath of a loved one's death."
Understanding Suicide: A National Epidemic: "What causes people to take their lives? How can suicides be prevented? Author Connie Goldsmith examines risk factors, warning signs, ways to reach out to a suffering loved one, and precautions that can save lives."
You may also be interested in these titles:
- Why Physicians Die by Suicide: Lessons Learned from their Families and Others who Cared
- Guns and Suicide: An American Epidemic
- Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It
- Beyond Bullying: Breaking the Cycle of Shame, Bullying, and Violence
- The Last and Greatest Battle: Finding the Will, Commitment, and Strategy to End Military Suicides
- L'adolescent suicidaire: le reconnaître, le comprendre et l'aider
- Comprendre le suicide
Out of the Darkness: Teens Talk about Suicide: "Based on interviews with survivors, parents, and professionals, this is a sensitive exploration of teen suicide, in particular the reasons why certain young people are driven to it, and an examination of the history of teen suicide in Western and other cultures, as well as what roles parents and schools can play in suicide prevention. A book for both teens and adults that breaks the silence surrounding this often taboo subject and offers hope for those who think there is none."
Eight Stories Up: An Adolescent Chooses Hope over Suicide: "In straightforward, easy-to-understand language ... discusses the potential causes of suicide in adolescents, how to seek psychiatric treatment, and how to get the most out of professional help. He also surveys some of the therapies used to prevent suicide, how to talk to loved ones about suicidal thoughts, and how to stay healthy at home and at school. The result is both a remarkable memoir and a useful guide that will ease the isolation and hopelessness caused by thoughts of suicide, helping young people to overcome their troubles in a safe and healthy way.
Will's Choice: A Suicidal Teen, a Desperate Mother, and a Chronicle of Recovery: "On March 11, 2001, seventeen-year-old Will ingested a near-fatal dose of his antidepressant medication, an event that would forever change his life and the lives of his family. In Will's Choice, his mother, Gail Griffith, tells the story of her family's struggle to renew Will's interest in life and to regain their equilibrium in the aftermath."
Adolescent Suicide: Assessment and Intervention: "... research and critical thinking about clinical assessment and intervention in addition to an expanded focus on prevention. Authored by three of the world's leading experts on suicide, including among them a psychiatrist, this book is a must-have reference and text for those working with this at-risk population. This volume reflects on what is current and promising in working with the suicidal adolescent and provides information relevant to theory, research, practice, and intervention."
Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn't Over: "No one struggling with a mental illness is alone; you, too, can survive and live a life filled with joy and love. Project Semicolon began in 2013 to spread this message of hope. In support of the project, thousands of people all over the world have gotten semicolon tattoos and shared their stories of hardship, growth, and rebirth. At once heartfelt, unflinchingly honest, and eternally hopeful, this collection tells a story of choice: every day you choose to live and let your story continue on."
Some populations (especially youth) are at an particular risk and these include LGBTQ+ and also Indigenous groups.
Dying to Please You: Indigenous Suicide in Contemporary Canada: "Resistance is the cure for Indigenous suicides. There is nothing wrong with Indigenous individuals that was not caused by the relentless violence of ongoing colonization, and therefore the treatment of the fatal condition of dispossession and oppression is to right that basic wrong."
Suicide - Is Not The First Nations Way: Problems Explored and Solutions Offered: "Emotional and hard-hitting this documentary/drama expores the dark reaches of suicide in our First Nations communities. Suicide has become a real threat to some of our young people, families and the very substance of our communities. What can we do? This program explores the depths of the problem and offers the very needed solutions that we all need."
- Healing Traditions: The Mental Health of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
- The Centre for Suicide Prevention's editorial "Canada’s Indigenous Communities and Suicide"
- Statistics Canada's "
- For First Nations facing suicide crisis, the solution is rooted in the community"
- Breaking Point: The Suicide Crisis in Indigenous Communities (PDF)
- CBC's "'We Matter': Indigenous youth raise their voices in the fight against suicide"
- Lancet July 2009 "Indigenous Health Part 2: The Underlying Causes of the Health Gap"(PDF)
Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws: "Celebrated transsexual trailblazer Kate Bornstein bravely and wittily shares personal and unorthodox methods of survival in an often cruel world in this much-needed unconventional approach to teenage suicide prevention for marginalised youth who want to stay on the edge, but alive. Features 101 alternatives to suicide that range from the playful (moisturise), to the irreverent (disbelieve the binary), to the highly controversial (get laid, please)."
Dead Boys Can't Dance: Sexual Orientation, Masculinity, and Suicide: "A ground-breaking exploration of the double taboos of homosexuality and suicide and their effect on males from fourteen to twenty-five analyses the adverse ways being stigmatized as homosexual affects personality and behaviour ... a ground-breaking exploration of the double taboos of homosexuality and suicide and their effect on males from fourteen to twenty-five."
Fire Song: "Shane is a gay Anishinaabe teenager in Northern Ontario, struggling to support his family after his sister's suicide. Originally Shane planned to go away to college in the fall, and he had been trying to convince his secret boyfriend to come with him. Now he is torn between responsibilities at home and the promise of freedom calling from the city. When he finally has to choose between family or future, what will Shane do?"
For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home: "Address[es] longstanding issues of sexual abuse, suicide, HIV/AIDS, racism, and homophobia in the African American, Latino, and Asian-American communities, and more specifically among young gay men of color. The ... book tells stories of real people growing up gay, seeking love, finding their own identity, and ultimately creating their own sense of personal and political empowerment."
You may also want to try these resources:
- The Trevor Project - Facts About Suicide
- Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line: call 1-800-268-9688 or text 647-694-4275
- It Get's Better Project
- Canadian Mental Health Association's "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer identified People and Mental Health"
Suicide Risk Management: A Manual for Health Professionals: "This highly practical book explains how to identify and manage suicidal individuals and supports the health professional in assisting the patient to choose life rather than death."
Suicidal Behavior in Children and Adolescents: "Wagner provides an in-depth examination of the problem of suicidal behavior within the context of child and adolescent behavior. Among the developmental issues covered are the evolving capacity for emotional self-regulation, change and stresses in family, peer, and romantic relationships, and developing conceptions of time and death. He also provides an up-to-date review of the controversy surrounding the possible influence of antidepressant medications on suicidal behavior. Within the context of an integrative model of the suicide crisis, Wagner discusses issues pertaining to assessment, treatment, and prevention."
Working With Suicidal Individuals: A Guide to Providing Understanding, Assessment and Support: "Highly Commended in the Psychiatry Category of the 2011 BMA Book Awards. provides a comprehensive guide to understanding suicide, the assessment of risk, and the treatment and management of suicidal individuals."
Helping Children and Young People who Self-harm: An Introduction to Self-harming and Suicidal Behaviours for Health Professionals: "provides clear and practical guidance for health professionals and other members of the children's workforce who are confronted by this complex and difficult area." There is also the following title Teen Suicide Risk: A Practitioner Guide to Screening, Assessment, and Management and also The Harvard Medical School Guide to Suicide Assessment and Intervention
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention/CASP has provided the following tips, that are current as of now, but it's important to also check on their website for any changes or additional information:
Some Important Facts We Would Like to Share with You
Suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated.
Clinical depression, anxiety disorders, chemical dependency, and other disorders produce profound emotional distress. They also interfere with effective problem-solving. But you need to know that studies show that the vast majority of people who receive appropriate treatment improve or recover completely. Even if you have received treatment before, you should know that different treatments work better for different people in different situations. Several tries are sometimes necessary before the right combination is found.
If you are unable to think of solutions other than suicide, it is not that solutions don’t exist, only that you are currently unable to see them.
Therapists and counselors (and sometimes friends) can help you to see solutions that otherwise are not apparent to you.
Suicidal crises are almost always temporary.
Although it might seem as if your unhappiness will never end, it is important to realize that crises are usually time-limited. Solutions are found, feelings change, unexpected positive events occur. Suicide is sometimes referred to as “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Don’t let suicide rob you of better times that will come your way when you allow more time to pass.
Problems are seldom as great as they appear at first glance.
Job loss, financial problems, loss of important people in our lives – all such stressful events can seem catastrophic at the time they are happening. Then, months or years later, they usually look smaller and more manageable. Sometimes, imagining ourselves “five years down the road” can help us to see that a problem that currently seems catastrophic will pass and that we will survive.
Reasons for living can help sustain a person in pain.
A famous psychologist once conducted a study of Nazi concentration camp survivors, and found that those who survived almost always reported strong beliefs about what was important in life. You, too, might be able to strengthen your connection with life if you consider what has sustained you through hard times in the past. Family ties, religion, love of art or nature, and dreams for the future are just a few of the many aspects of life that provide meaning and gratification, but which we can lose sight of due to emotional distress.
Do not keep suicidal thoughts to yourself!
Help is available for you, whether through a friend, therapist, or member of the clergy. Find someone you trust and let them know how bad things are. This can be your first step on the road to healing. Contact a crisis centre.
Source: American Association for Suicidology, www.suicidology.org