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  • H.M. Jackson

Suicide Awareness - Fighting the Misconceptions

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, with September 10th-16th,

2023 recognized as the National Week, and September 10th, 2023, being recognized as Suicide Prevention Day. In 2021 suicide ranked among the top 9 for leading cause of death and was the 2nd leading cause of death for those aged 10-14, and aged 20-34 according to the CDC. It’s a devastating statistic, but together we can raise awareness.

Suicide not only has a stigma, but many misconceptions. It’s viewed as such a “hush hush” topic when it should be talked about more. If there was more open communication on the topic, it would allow it to become more normalized throughout the communities. As someone who personally struggled with suicidal thoughts, and eventually reached rock bottom with a plan to take my own life, I understand the waves of emotions that come crashing. I suffered in silence with thoughts of suicide on and off for years. I held onto a lot of fears alone. The negative stigma attached, certain individual’s views, along with negative self-belief’s for feeling the way I did, were all reasons I felt I couldn’t open up.

With the hope of helping start conversations on the topic, and ending the stigma, I am going to share a few of my personal obstacles, and misconceptions I’ve heard.

  1. “You have nothing to be sad about, you have a great life.” or “Other people have it worse.”

  2. “It’s for attention, if they wanted to they wouldn’t tell anyone.”

  3. Suicide is selfish.

  4. “If we talk about suicide, all that will do is increase suicide.”

1. “You have nothing to be sad about, you have a great life.” or “Other people have it worse.”

Each person is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Trauma is not meant to be compared to others to see who had it worse. We don’t know the whole story, we don’t know the effect it truly had on this person, and it is not our place to cast judgment on who has it worse. Your trauma is valid, there is no ranking for who had it worse. Also, there isn’t a check list for feeling suicidal. Honestly, you can’t look at someone and say “you have a house, a job, a car so you can’t be suicidal.” It doesn’t work like that. That was one reason I had a really tough battle. From the outside looking in, it did look like I had my life together, but on the inside, I was slowly falling apart. People would tell me all the time I shouldn’t be sad, or depressed, since I had such a great life. The truth is, those items have nothing to do with the feelings inside. For me, it was past trauma I had not addressed. However, all the comments of how great my life was, made me feel ashamed, and often caused me to beat myself up more because “I should be more grateful, I do have it good.” We don’t get to tell someone how they should feel based on what we think or see from the outside.

2. “It’s for attention, if they wanted to they wouldn’t tell anyone.”

I have heard many express this comment. There are a number of people out there that have said something along the lines of “if they wanted to, they would. They wouldn’t tell anyone.” in response to someone experiencing suicidal thoughts. Then, those same people are the first ones to say “I wish they would have told me, I would have been there,” when someone close to them does take their life. Let me tell you, if anyone, I mean anyone, I don’t care who it is, tells you that as their response to you opening up about suicidal thoughts, that person is not someone who deserves to be in your presence. You are worthy, you are enough, and you deserve people who love, care, and support you through even the worst times. Also, please know how strong you are for opening up, and seeking help.

On the other side, don’t be that person, don’t be the person that accuses someone of attention seeking. If you have never experienced the debilitating thoughts of suicide, I’m so thankful you haven’t, but it is such a scary place to be and the last thing the person struggling should hear is you don’t believe them. That person is in such a dark place and they think the only way to have relief is to not be here anymore, don’t push them down. Be there for them.

3. Suicide is selfish.

Suicide isn’t selfish - and individuals struggling with it don’t need to be told how selfish they would be. Can you imagine the pain that person is feeling inside? A pain so great that they don’t see a way out ever, and the only thing they can think of to stop the hurt is to not be here anymore. In fact, this person honestly thinks that everyone else would be better without them.

4. “If we talk about suicide, all that will do is increase suicide.”

According to the CDC, Suicide is already ranked in the top 9 as a leading cause of death. If we talk about suicide, that will normalize the topic. By normalizing the topic, I think it will create a safe space for individuals to feel capable of opening up. I know I was terrified of opening up, I didn’t think people would understand, and honestly I held my own negative self beliefs for being so low. I feel like our society has curated “suicide” to be bad, which creates barriers for individuals struggling. By letting others know, they aren’t alone in their thoughts, it can build a community. By building a community, that also creates safety, love, care, and support. Those are all crucial to help individuals feel secure.

There have been some positive changes towards suicide awareness and prevention. In 2022, 988 became designated as the National Suicide and Crisis hotline. The update was in hope to make it easier for individuals to reach out if they were in a crisis.

In honor of September being National Suicide Prevention Month, below are some organizations to check out:

The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has many chapters in each state. Their focus is raising awareness, sharing hope, prevention and advocacy for Suicide. If you are looking to help lead the way in suicide prevention and awareness, check out their website: AFSP. AFSP provides guidance, training, and creates a community. One of their signature events is the “Out of The Darkness Walk.” Every chapter does their annual walk at a different time, but it is a beautiful experience to see everyone unite with the same goal, raising awareness and Preventing Suicide. I attended my local walk last year for the first time. While it did have lots of tears, it was eye opening to be surrounded by people who understood, yet sad seeing the harsh reality of how many are affected.

Additional Organizations:

Sharing our personal experiences can help others feel they are not alone. I truly believe being surrounded by support and understanding will make a positive impact. The company, Own Your Stigma is a clothing brand that donates proceeds to mental health charities, and the name itself expresses their beliefs. I have partnered up with Own Your Stigma to help with raising awareness on mental health. To view their shop, click here: Own Your Stigma Store

You can use my discount code, CatchtheWaves for 15% off your order.

Together, we CAN make a change. We can continue erasing the stigma that surrounds mental health, and suicide. We can come as one to make sure everyone knows, it is okay, not to be okay. It’s also okay to talk about it.

⎻ H.M. Jackson

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