Writes Isabella Dzova, founding director of MH263
Mental Health 263 (MH263) is working to change the conversation from suicide to suicide prevention, promoting actions that can aid healing by offering help, resulting in hope.
“Our actions, no matter how big or small, can provide hope to those who are struggling. We can all prevent suicide by raising awareness of suicide prevention during this dedication month of September. World Suicide Prevention Day is 10 September.
“Suicide Prevention Week is from Monday 11 to Saturday, 16 September. Let’s share stories of survivors as well as promote suicide prevention awareness. It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide and focus on efforts to prevent suicide and direct treatment to those who need it most. Everyone needs a caring buddy who is there to check on family, friends, and neighbours,” Dzvova said.
Be The One To Ask
Research shows that people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring manner. Ask directly about what’s going on. Ask early, rather than waiting for things to escalate to lows. Take all comments about suicide seriously.
Ask the tough question, “Are you thinking about suicide?” If the answer is yes, or you suspect the answer is yes, don’t leave the person alone. When we say be there, either physically or through the phone. Talking about suicide reduces suicide ideation. One feels that they can end the misery. At this juncture, one needs someone to hold their hand.
The theme “Creating Hope Through Action” has been running for three years, 2021 – 2023. It is a call to action and a reminder to all in need that there is an alternative to suicide and that help is available.
Our actions can strengthen prevention and encourage hope. No matter how big or small our actions are, they provide hope to those who are struggling. We must focus attention on reducing stigma and raising awareness among organisations, governments, and the public, emphasizing that suicide is preventable.
By listening, talking, and acting, you could save a life. Much can be done to prevent suicide at the individual, community, and national level.
Suicide Warning Signs start with depression setting in. Suicide notes (should be taken seriously), and so should threats, previous attempts, harming oneself, and dramatic changes.
From there, one is unable to think clearly or concentrate. Science says one then plans a method. This is “masked”. Depression (acts of aggression, gunplay, and alcohol/substance abuse can come into play. One may not act “depressed,” and their behaviour can suggest that they do not care about their own safety.
What can we do to help?
Make no deals with the affected. Never keep a friend’s suicidal plans secret. You can not promise that you will not tell anyone, you tell someone to save the life on the brink. Get to know the warning signs. Talk to someone, a trusted friend, pastor, psychologist, or counselor. Don’t wait any minute longer! It’s a time to be safe, not sorry!
Schools should have crisis teams, be it in the form of a teacher, counselor, social worker, school head, or psychologist. These teams recognise warning signs of suicide and know how to help. If you think someone at your school might be suicidal, find out if your school has a crisis team in place. If your school does not have a crisis team, ask your student council or faculty advisor to look into having a team in place.
Workplaces should have monthly/quarterly Staff Wellness talks to promote employees’ mental health. As children grow, it becomes more challenging for parents to always know what they are thinking and feeling. Learn about factors that can increase your child’s risk of suicide. This can help you feel prepared to offer the caring; non-judgmental support your child needs. Some of these factors include:
Tuning in when you see signs that your child’s mental health is under threat.
Try not to dismiss what you see as teenage drama. Respond with understanding and empathy when your child talks or writes about suicide. Encourage them to spend time with family and friends. Exercise and physical activity ease mental health symptoms and support your child’s wellness plan. Any form of exercise is fine, be it outside taking a walk or going to the gym.
Get professional help
Tell each other that progress will come at its own pace. Setbacks may happen—they’re part of the healing process, too. Encourage your child to be patient and self-forgiving. They’ve been through a lot but with the right care and support, you will both see improvement.
As individuals, let us allow ourselves time to share joyful moments together, and provide safe environments to express life challenges, difficulties, and struggles. This can lead to an increased frequency of social contact, lower levels of social isolation or loneliness, and an increased number of positive relationships. Let us be ourselves and share our thoughts and ideas. We are more likely to feel less overwhelmed, less depressed, and more hopeful. After speaking with someone, we feel connected and listen without being judgemental.
“As a community, let us value our connectedness as families, communities, schools, faith communities, cultural groups. A stronger connection increases a person’s sense of belonging and sense of personal value or worth. It gives motivation and the ability to cope adaptively in the face of adversity.
The focus is on POSITIVE CONNECTIONS. Remember, let this be our daily bread and not wait for September to have conversations about our mental health. Be our brother’s or sister’s keeper always.
“You seriously have no idea what people are dealing with in their personal life. So just be nice, it’s that simple.”