Suicide and Sharing Resources on Social Media
A lot of folks are really angry about people making posts via social media that encourage reaching out for help, and providing resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Text Line.
While I agree that we need to check in on our loved ones when we think they may be struggling, some folks excel at hiding their troubles. Not everyone who struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts is public about it. If asked, they would shrug, laugh, and say “I’m fine.”
When I went from actively self-harming into the realm of suicidal ideation, no one had any idea. They didn’t even know that I was depressed or self-harming. My life looked pretty perfect to everyone who wasn’t trapped in my head. So, everyone was shocked when I made an attempt on my own life. I could have had help, support, and people to talk to; but in that moment I didn’t know that I needed it, and to be honest I probably wouldn’t have taken help if it was offered. I would have done anything to avoid letting people know that I was struggling.
You. Cannot. Force. Someone. To. Let. You. Help.
As a crisis counselor, I have dealt with several active rescue situations in which the caller stated that they could have talked to family or friends, they had a solid support system; but they were too scared, ashamed, or just flat out tired of trying. They just happened to see an advertisement and called in so they wouldn’t be alone when they died. I helped save a few of them.
When you tell people not to post the numbers, because it doesn’t help, and they can just google it; this makes me wonder if you have ever dealt with a person who was actively trying to end their life. It is not uncommon for these folks to hurt so deeply that they are unable to eat, shower, have social interaction, or even get out of bed. They see no hope for the future. In that moment they literally feel like there are no viable options other than dying. Do you really believe they are going to be browsing google for phone numbers? The best hope is that a post or advertisement catches their eye and they decide to give it a try, if for no other reason, so they aren’t alone. By telling people to feel bad and not post awareness information and resources, you are actively denying people help in a literal life and death situation. For every post made telling people NOT to share this information, there is someone who will now no longer pass that information along to those who truly need it.
Not every single person has been personally affected by mental illness. Not everyone has struggled with suicidal ideation. Not every person knows the signs to look for in a person who may be considering ending their life. These folks may not be aware of how they can make an impact, or how to help in meaningful ways. Maybe for them, sharing a meme is the biggest way they know how to help. Maybe they don’t know how to approach their loved ones about the situation without being offensive or making them feel worse.
As someone with a few diagnoses under my own belt, I find it incredibly hard to reach out to others about their mental health. It’s awkward and uncomfortable when people ask me about my mental health, and when they say they reached out because it doesn’t seem like I’m doing well, it makes me feel even worse, because obviously I’m doing poorly enough to cause alarm. Then I spiral into a negative thought pattern about how terrible I must look to the outside world, and they really must be thinking about me. So, while I may not reach out to someone and say, “Hey you seem to be doing pretty damn terrible, wanna talk about it?” I do care and I try to help how I can.
According to SAVE, Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, with 44,965 Americans dying by suicide annually. For every completion, there are 25 attempts.
So, yes. For fucks sake, be present and check on your people. But also: spread awareness, educate folks on healthy coping methods, advocate for more accessible mental healthcare, break down the stigma, and share the goddamned resources. People who know better, and are educated about depression and suicide, can DO better for those who are struggling. For every time those resources are shared, a life can potentially be saved. Let people help how they can.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Crisis Text Line:
Text “home” to 741-741