Suicide Awareness Month: Last in a Series
Whose job is it to prevent suicide? The better question: whose job isn’t it? The idea that is continuing to gain global momentum is that we all play a role in suicide prevention and that suicide is a public health issue- not just a mental health one.
Does increased media attention help raise awareness?
What’s not helpful? If we sensationalize and dramatize deaths by suicide, the attention is dangerous. There is no need to mention the method the person used to end their life to make flashy headlines. Copycat suicides do happen, and suicide contagion is real when we are not careful about how we talk about it. Reportingonsuicide.org is the best site for safe messaging when covering suicide.
What is helpful? Stories of recovery and hope. Centering the voices of people with lived experience, which means people who have dealt with suicidal thoughts, attempts, or loss, and how they fight to keep living. In a TWLOHA blog, they write, “Hope is defiant.” When we share stories that emphasize why people continue to stay alive, we flip the script on the suicide conversation and make hope the thing that is contagious.
How should we talk about suicide?
Language matters! It is the primary filter through which we perceive the world, so it is obvious that it affects how we relate to one another. When you hear the word “commit”, what do you think of? Commit a crime? Commit a sin? Does anyone commit cancer or a stroke? Why, then, do we continue to say, “commit suicide”? It is true that language is always evolving, and it is difficult to keep up; however, when it can mean the difference between someone feeling shame or connection, it is an important shift we must make. Words to use that decrease stigma include “died by/of suicide”, “lost their life to suicide”, and “attempted suicide” rather than talking about “unsuccessful” or “successful” suicides.
For more information on how you can get involved with suicide prevention efforts in Wisconsin, visit: www.preventsuicidewi.org or like us on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/PreventSuicideWisconsin/ . You can also find information on mental health and wellness at: www.mhawisconsin.org.
Leah Rolando is the Suicide Prevention Specialist with Mental Health America of Wisconsin. In this role, she coordinates Prevent Suicide Wisconsin, a statewide partnership that aims to present hope and strengthen the safety net in Wisconsin for people who have lived experience with suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and suicide loss survivors. Leah serves on the Steering Committee for Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee and provides trainings as a Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper Instructor. She also volunteers as a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line. Leah can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 414-336-7970.