World Suicide Prevention Day Seeks to Raise Awareness and Eliminate Stigma Surrounding Suicide

During World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10, people from around the world took to social media to share personal stories, offer support to those struggling with mental illness and suicidal thoughts and fight against social stigmas surrounding the discussion of mental illness and suicide.

In a news release, the World Health Organization (WHO) shared statistics and facts surrounding the public health issue of suicide.

One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, according to the WHO. It is the second leading cause of death among young people, aged 15–29 years. Though suicide affects people from all backgrounds, is most common in higher-income countries. While there has been progress throughout the world in discussing suicide prevention, only 38 countries have established national suicide prevention strategies, the WHO reports.

On Twitter under the hashtag #WorldSuicidePreventionDay, people shared their own experiences with mental illness and suicide and urged others to speak openly about the issue.

Related Story: During Suicide Prevention Week, People of Color’s Mental Health Struggles Cannot be Forgotten

One mental health awareness account tweeted about the toxicity of silence surrounding the issue. Rangan Chatterjee, a British author, TV presenter and podcaster also acknowledged how not talking about suicide makes it more likely to occur. Another user pointed to the high suicide rates in Northern Ireland and spoke out against mental illness stigma.

 

 

British talk radio host Iain Lee also shared a personal experience on Twitter, celebrating his journey and progress. Another user tweeted about her suicide attempt as a young woman and how much going to therapy helped her, while another shared two photos of herself: one from after she returned from the emergency room after attempting to take her own life a year ago, and another from more recently.

“The 10th of every month is a little victory for me,” she said.

 

More users pointed out how pressure to adhere to traits society prescribes to their gender causes many people to suffer in silence. According to the WHO, nearly three times as many men as women die by suicide in high-income countries. Silence and shame are quite literally killing men, because traditional gender roles render men less likely to express their emotions to ask for support and treatment.

People from around the world also shared suicide hotline and crisis helpline numbers for various countries.

Aside from having candid discussions to raise awareness, the WHO highlights other effective methods in suicide prevention. Restricting access to means of suicide, implementing programs that help young people cope with stresses and early identification, management and follow-up have all been proven effective. Additionally, the WHO says, educating the media on how to report suicide responsibly is key.

Sensationalizing and romanticizing these tragedies makes them more likely to recur. ReportingOnSuicide.org is an organization dedicating to educating people on how to speak publicly about the issue. They cite that data shows when coverage of suicide is graphic or sensationalistic, risk of additional suicides increases.

ReportingOnSuicide.org recommends nixing the use of sensationalistic headlines; photos of the location, grieving loved ones, memories or funerals; explanation or photos of the method the person used; describing a suicide as inexplicable or “without warning;” sharing contents of a suicide note; and using strong terms such as calling recent suicides an “epidemic” or saying rates are “skyrocketing.”

Word choice is also important. A person did not “commit” suicide; they “died by” suicide or “took their own life.” Discussing suicide in the same way as crimes adds to shame and stigma, which leads to fewer people seeking help. Avoiding the word “commit” is an easy way to change the language surrounding suicide from contemptuous to sensitive. Also, ReportingOnSuicide.org recommends not referring to a suicide attempt as “successful,” “unsuccessful” or “failed,” in order to not attach positive connotations to the action.

 

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

 

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