Suicide rates are on the rise.
When someone dies by suicide, we’re left with intense questions: could someone have known? Should someone have known? Why didn’t they get help? When a public figure or celebrity dies by suicide, we start to worry about the people we know: If there were no indications that things had gotten that bad for the celebrity, how we can tell if OUR friends and family are safe?
There aren’t clear answers to any of these questions. But one thing is for sure: the ways we talk about grief, loss, and mental health – AND how we offer support – are all part of the problem (and the solution). There are links to several articles and resources on this page to help you find the support you need. “Just reach out” is only the start of a much wider conversation.
Start the conversation.
If you’re concerned about a friend or family member, the time to talk about this stuff is now. How you talk about it is important: no one will tell the truth about their innermost feelings and experience if they’re met with cheerleading, admonishment, or disbelief. It won’t help to tell them they have a lot to live for. You can’t cheer someone up enough to make them want to stay. I know that’s hard. The goal in offering support is not to make someone feel better, it’s to help them feel HEARD. You want to convey the love & support you intend, AND help the person stay safe.
Knowing what to say and what not to say can feel overwhelming.
You’re already doing hard stuff just by being willing to bring up your concerns, so for some ideas to help your conversation go in the right (more effective) direction, check out the helper tips on this page, and look at the book, It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief & Loss in a Culture that Doesn’t Understand (specifically the section on how friends & family can help).
It’s also true that many people who die by suicide had legions of friends and family by their side, trying to help. If you’re grieving a death by suicide, guilt and feelings of failure are common. You can’t always keep someone safe, no matter how hard you try.
When should you get outside help?
If you or someone you know is in imminent danger, get help. Resources vary from city to city, so search for resources in your area. If you or someone you know goes through periods of suicidal ideation, it’s a good idea to call your local resources to find out what they offer BEFORE you need them in an emergency. You can even relay the information to your friend as to what to expect when they call.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a good resource. They have text, chat, and phone based services. If you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed, texting for help can feel a lot easier than making a phone call. There are also specific helpline resources for the queer and trans communities, and other community or need-specific resources like the StrongHearts Native Helpline. This find a helpine site is a good place to look for resources that match your needs.
Helpines save lives. However: for communities of color and other marginalized or targeted populations, calling crisis services or the police can be dangerous. Use caution, know your community, and look for non-police sources of support.
Here’s an on-going, non-comprehensive list of articles, videos, and essays that shed light on suicide rates, how we talk about suicide, access to suicide resources, and a few other things. It’s a big, big topic – and a giant elephant in the room.
Know someone who’s depressed? Don’t try to cheer them up. From the New York Times: What to Do When a Loved One is Severely Depressed
How the media covers celebrity suicides can have life-or-death consequences: It’s important for news outlets to report on these deaths responsibly
On minding our own business: grief in the public eye. HuffPo: Have You Been the News?
The American Society for the Prevention of Suicide has extensive resources (this recommendation came from a mama who is living on after her child’s suicide, and I don’t take that rec lightly.)
Know someone grieving a suicide? Even well-intentioned words can cause pain. From The New York Times: What to Say (and Not to Say) to Someone Grieving a Suicide
Global News Radio host Kelly Cutrara and I on looking for signs in friends & family, and the stark reality that you can’t save everyone. Listen in to this important conversation at this link.
What’s pushing our suicide rates higher? Listen in as host Lars Larson and I discuss the alarming trends.
Grief & Suicidality: how and why to stay alive (excerpt from It’s OK that You’re Not OK)
AM/NW host Helen Raptis and I discussed what the rising suicide rate means, and what’s really behind those numbers. Hint: it’s not what you think. Here’s the video:
Some resources and discussions created with my friends at KGW tv: our Portland Today segment and facebook live Q&A session on suicide:
We’ll keep adding to this resource list as things are suggested or created.