Suicide can be prevented if we learn to recognize the people at risk.
Before we can learn to recognize the people at risk or the invitations they might give out, what we need to do is examine our own beliefs and values. Do we think suicide can be prevented? Or do we think it’s always going to be there? Do we think we can make a difference? Or do we think that’s only something for professionals?
The best analogy I can give you is with heart disease. Years ago, people would just die of a heart attack, if you had a heart attack, you would just die. Often, you would not get to the hospital in time and no one else knew what to do, we lived in an era where we thought, “Only professionals can help someone who is in cardiac arrest.” But then what happened? Somebody developed CPR and they taught it, not just to professionals, but to everybody. So many of us know how to do CPR, whether we keep our certification up to date or not, we have a general idea of how to do it. And then all of a sudden people were giving CPR, they could recognize the signs of a heart attack, they knew what to do, they gave CPR, and they could keep the person alive until first responders came and took the person to the hospital. And even first responders… first responders are still just sustaining life, they are keeping the person alive until they get them to the hospital where they undergo surgery or whatever kind of treatment they need.
And then what happened? Then we started putting defibrillators in almost every public building, so now we have people who can identify someone having a heart attack, we have people with the skills to give CPR, we have defibrillators available, we have people who know how to do that and it’s remarkable the number of people who experience a heart attack and don’t die on the spot. The numbers have just plummeted, it’s amazing.
We want to see the same thing in suicide. We want people to be able to recognize someone at risk, and we want people to feel empowered to be able to help them, and we want to be able to connect those people to the supports that they need. Because, you can recover from suicidality, just like you can recover from a heart attack, and just like you can recover from anything. We’re strong, resilient people but we need help, and we need to be better connected to each other if we’re going to do that.