This Spotlight post is written by Christine Toupin. Trigger warning: This Spotlight post deals with mental illness, self harm, suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, and medical negligence.
September 10, 2016 is World Suicide Prevention Day. It's been just over 30 weeks now since I attempted suicide, so this particular day has significant meaning to me. I didn't know about World Suicide Prevention Day until recently, and I think it's a great concept. But I do have one problem with it. Every day should be a suicide prevention day.
February 3, 2016. When I called 911 twice telling them that I was suicidal. That should've been a suicide prevention day. They should've taken me seriously. They should've responded in a manner equivalent to the intensity of the situation, and they didn't. Instead, they came to my house and told me that I was fine. That night I took an overdose that was intended to kill me. I wasn't fine. I wasn't just an overdramatic, rebellious, attention seeking teenager. I was hurting. I was unsafe. I was crying out for help desperately. But that wasn't a suicide prevention day. I almost died that day. That day should've been a suicide prevention day.
Everyone has their own set of coping skills and they look different in every single person. Granted, some are far healthier than others, and some coping skills aren't healthy or safe and that's important to address. But coping skills are still coping skills and sometimes they're the only things that keep people going. So before judging someone's coping skills or blaming them, it should be considered that perhaps they're at a point where those coping skills are the only things that they have left. Maybe they need more support instead of judgment. Maybe they feel hopeless. Maybe they need help. Maybe before you take away the only thing they have left you should give them some support. Every day should be a suicide prevention day.
So how do we make things different? How do we take steps to prevent suicide, not just on one day a year, but every day?
Listen to people. Make sure people know that you're there for them. Respond with support and kindness and without judgement or condemnation. You might be the only person with whom they ever share how they're feeling. When someone trusts you enough to tell you something serious, always take it seriously.
Ask questions instead of making assumptions. Don't assume that depression is the same for everyone because it isn't. Don't assume that someone is fine just because they're smiling. Ask them "How are you doing today?". See what they say. Maybe they're doing great. Maybe they aren't. But you can't know if you don't ask.
Reach out regularly. Instead of making a ton of effort one day to tell the world "If you need help, I'm here!", make it clear to people in the little things that you do every day. When you know that someone is having a hard time, ask them how you can help. From time to time, if you want to make that Facebook post or whatever saying that you're there for everyone, go right ahead, any day that you'd like. Reach out anytime you find it appropriate, not just once a year because everyone else is doing it. Go with that gut feeling. Reach out to people who are hurting. You just might save a life.
If you're hurting, get help. There are people who want you to keep living. You are worth something in this world. Ask for help. Make today your suicide prevention day.
Take steps to prevent suicide. September 10. February 3. Today. Tomorrow. Every day. Because every day should be a suicide prevention day.
Note: If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal or struggling with depression, please reach out. You are not alone. You are important. You are loved. Christine, the author of this Spotlight piece, is currently in the hospital as I'm publishing this, so let's all send her some love and support. xo S