The month of September is known as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It’s a time when a lot of attention is placed on suicide and mental illness by news outlets and other organizations. There are typically, an abundance of articles about:
- reaching out for help if one is depressed,
- reaching out to help those who are depressed,
- and recognizing “signs” that someone is suicidal.
This month – for the third year in a row – we are launching our “Suicide is Complicated” campaign on social media. Our intention is twofold: 1) to increase public awareness of the complexities surrounding suicide and suicide prevention, and 2) to increase support and understanding for suicide loss survivors.
We began the “Suicide is Complicated” campaign because so many members of the Alliance of Hope forum told us they were bothered by the oversimplification of the prevention messaging. Many were especially troubled by the slogan “Suicide is Preventable” as well as the emphasis on “looking for signs” that someone might be suicidal.
Survivors empathize with the intention of the slogan, but say the blanket assertion is vastly oversimplified, and often lands like a secondary wound — leaving them feeling guilty and judged. Typical comments are like these below:
“Suicide is Preventable” adds another layer of guilt. If it is preventable, why couldn’t I prevent it? It makes me physically sick to my stomach. It really does.” Purplekingsmomma.
“My husband’s suicide was a complete shock! No signs whatsoever! How can one prevent it if they had no idea it was even an issue?” ~Marybeth975
“I hate the blanket statement that suicide is preventable! For whom? Cause it’s certainly not everyone – obviously. … This was never ever on my radar. My dad never tried anything like this, he never talked about anything like this, there were no signs. One day he just was gone. How in the heck was I to prevent that?” ~Brokn13
Suicide loss survivors have a direct and deeply personal experience with suicide that alters their perspective forever. The profound trauma of their loss, recollections of events prior to and following the suicide, and the knowledge they gain from other survivors leads them to realize the complexity of trying to prevent someone from ending his or her life. Suicide is complicated.
Survivors know this is a very challenging issue. There is no one size fits all solution to prevent suicide and it can’t be summed up in a soundbite.
Please consider joining us this month, on Facebook or Instagram, and sharing our posts with others, if they resonate with you. Let’s work together to increase public awareness about the complexity of suicide and suicide loss.