Dos and Don’ts for Suicide Prevention
Content warning: This blog contains a discussion of suicide and suicidal ideation.
No matter how many conversations are had or how many awareness efforts take place when it comes to suicide prevention, it seems society doesn't know how to make a positive difference. I get it. Death is a hard thing for people in general, and suicide grates harder against that. I'm here to share some dos and don'ts for suicide prevention that can help.
Don'ts: Things that Negate Suicide Prevention
Let's get the don'ts out of the way. I recommend avoiding these things if you truly hope to make a difference with suicide prevention since these negate it. These are a couple I wanted to touch on, but this isn't an exhaustive list.
- Don't be cavalier about suicide. This is a big don't for me as, time and again, I hear flippant conversations about suicide. In my area, there's a bridge that, sadly, became a hotspot for those seeking to die by suicide, and barriers were erected as a preventative measure. I've heard many say, "They'll just find somewhere else to jump." Often, it's in a snarky tone, but regardless of tone, the statement simply doesn't help prevent suicide.
- Don't shame people for their struggles with suicidal ideation. This can happen both directly or indirectly. It can be telling someone suicide is selfish or making it sound like an inconvenience to others. For instance, that bridge I just mentioned? People call the barriers ugly and bemoan their necessity as if it's an affront on them. Again, this is not helpful for suicide prevention, and it is stigmatizing.
Dos: Things You Can Do to Be a Positive Force for Suicide Prevention
There are a wealth of ways you can be a positive force for suicide prevention. Like with the don'ts, these are only a couple of points to highlight.
- Do educate yourself about suicide. Whether it's reading studies or stories from those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or even speaking with those people, this is a great way to better understand suicide and how suicidal ideation impacts a person. It can unveil how deeply the struggle goes and why the don'ts I've mentioned are things to avoid.
- Do donate to mental health organizations or suicide hotlines. These are often volunteer-based, non-profits, charities, or some mix, and funding isn't necessarily the greatest. These organizations and hotlines, however, are among the leaders in suicide prevention as they provide much-needed resources and hope for those struggling ("How Does a Suicide Prevention Hotline Prevent Suicide?").
Think About How You're Contributing to Suicide Prevention
This blog came about because of a conversation about that bridge I mentioned. The people who were part of that conversation included some I consider friends, and it was teeming with disdain for those who think about dying by suicide and how preventative measures don't work. I can appreciate a conversation about a suicide prevention tactic not being effective, but how they spoke about it felt more like they took the position of being inconvenienced and thinking, "How dare people be suicidal?"
It was, quite honestly, uncomfortable, and one of the times, I didn't have the wherewithal to speak up. I kept wondering, would they have the same attitude if they knew I live with suicide ideation? Would they speak so poorly of people who think about dying by suicide if they knew that I am among those people?
Ultimately, it's important to think about how our attitudes and words contribute. For suicide prevention, stigmatizing statements that shame don't have a positive impact, but there are steps you can take that will. Also, be mindful of how you speak about suicide. You never know when a person might be someone that struggles with the very thing you're admonishing.
If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.
For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.
Barton, L. (2021, July 12). Dos and Don’ts for Suicide Prevention, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, March 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2021/7/dos-and-donts-for-suicide-prevention
Author: Laura A. Barton
Excellent piece, Laura! Thank you so much.
Glad you like it, Jude! Thank you! :)
Thank you for sharing this piece. I think one of the most important pieces for people to take away here (and it can be applied to other things as well) is to please be mindful of how you're speaking about something. Whether it's suicide, other mental health areas, or general life choices we never know who is dealing with what and how our words could affect them.
Absolutely agree! It's about having empathy and realizing that other people may be struggling with something that you don't understand. It's okay to not understand. It's not okay to be unkind about it.