6 Simple & Practical Things All Of Us Can Do To Reduce Suicide Rates
Once again we wake to the news of another tragic suicide. And once again the question rings out ‘how do we stop this, how do we change this?”
In my view this is not about changing how suicidal people seek help. This is about how all of us function in a sick society and here’s how I think we can change it:
- Stop focusing on the idea that it would all be ok if they’d only reach out and talk to someone. No it wouldn’t. The vast majority of people in my experience and the experience of other friends who have been suicidal in the past is that most people are crap at listening when you reach out because most people who are suicidal do not reach out in the way you imagine they would or should. Generally speaking suicidal people will not lead with, ‘I feel suicidal’ they will lead with something small to test your openness to listening further. And sadly this country has a habit of dismissing these things with platitudes. It is more likely that a suicidal person has reached out in the past in some small way and been dismissed or brushed off. Stop putting the onus on the vulnerable party to do something different. How is that helpful? The onus is on all of us to do something different if we truly care about these people.
- Let’s stop demonising confidence. Let’s openly embody and embrace the concept of self-love. I’m not talking vanity or arrogance; simple open, vocal and widely accepted self-love. Ireland holds a deeply ingrained and destructive core value of ‘staying small’ ‘don’t raise your head above the parapet or you’ll be put back in your box’ and I truly believe this is a big part of what’s killing us in record numbers.
- Lead by example. You show a suicidal person that you are possibly safe to open up to by being open yourself. At all times. In the pub. Online. At work. In the street. Talk openly about your feelings and struggles as much as you can. This is the real message that gets through. Literally saying ‘I’m here to talk if you need me’ is great and all but people read your actions more than your words. You can’t be a closed, sarcastic douchebag who posts misogynistic or homophobic memes and imagine your friend will reach out to you for help when they’re at their most vulnerable.
- Be someone worth reaching out to. Foster real listening skills. You don’t need to solve people’s problems. Sometimes the most healing thing we can offer another human is our full undivided heartfelt, non-judgemental attention. So start giving this to as many people as you can in as many situations as you can.
- Drop the masks. The sarcasm. And let’s once and for all drop the automatic response when someone asks you how you are of simply saying ‘grand’. Share your struggles. And for god sake don’t roll your eyes when others share their struggles on social media. Which leads me to…
- Stop silencing people. You say you want people to open up to you but what if it puts you in an uncomfortable position? What if the person is suicidal because they were sexually assaulted by your best friend? What if it’s because they’re transgender? What if it’s because they are being abused by their intimate partner? Will you help or will you pull out the oh so standard Irish response of, “There’s two sides to every story” or “Never get involved in domestics”?
We are not powerless. Quite the opposite. Our action and inaction, our speech and our silence, our smiles and our sneers, are all truly more powerful than we can fathom.
In the end it’s simple, it’s clichéd, but it’s true: Those who desire change need change only themselves.
Image courtesy of Alan O’Rourke