World Suicide Prevention Day

When I first began researching the clergy sexual abuse scandal in my church, the Roman Catholic Church of which I am no longer a member, it was a suicide that compelled me to get off my pew and do something.

Suicide is one of the hardest things to understand, for me. It seems contrary to nature – the natural course of our lives – to end it prematurely. Life is short already, in the grand scheme of things. Why make it shorter than it already is?

Short answer? Pain.

No one wakes up one morning and decides to end their own life. (At least I’ve never heard of that happening.) I imagine almost every suicide victims suffered through days, weeks, months, or years of intense and eventually unbearable pain.

Very often, subtle signs were given along the way, signs that could have easily been missed. Cries for help, usually. Sometimes, we don’t put the pieces together until it’s too late.

A long time ago, I heard the pioneer of daytime talk television, Phil Donahue, repeat a line that I’ve never forgotten: Suicide is a permanent response to a temporary problem. He may have used the word solution where I have response but I don’t see it as a solution at all. Rather, suicide seems to be a last resort for those who had hoped for and sought a better way lost the light at the end of the tunnel.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention started, in 2003, World Suicide Prevention Day. It was yesterday, September 10, 2015. This year’s theme is Preventing Suicide, Reaching Out and Saving Lives.

Here is the current IASP President Ella Arensman, a professor of Public Health in Cork, Ireland explaining the need for such a campaign:

There are many posters online stating or displaying suicide warning signs. Here is one from Common Ground:

suicide warning signs

As troubling and scary as the subject of suicide may be, hence the slowly disappearing stigma attached to it, suicide prevention campaigns try to carry on a positive message. Suicide is 100% preventable. There is something we can do about it. Unlike many other causes of death that might seems to be out of our hands, we should feel empowered to prevent suicides and decrease the number of suicides across the globe – or at least in our own little corners of the world.

What can we do? The state of Missouri put it in simple terms, something we all can remember:

Ask Listen Refer

As Ella explained in the video above, someone who is suicidal is unlikely to come out and ask for help, because of the stigma still attached even in the USA to depression and other mental illnesses. Also, it will be difficult for someone in such despair to, at the mere mention of one resource or another, jump up and get themselves to the help they need. Prof. Arensman came up with three other useful words: Encourage, Support, and Guide someone showing some of the signs listed above to the help that can save their precious life.


What do you think? Do you have anything to share based on your own experiences or knowledge? Please leave your comments below.