Updated: Sep 21, 2018
Although I have previously shared blog posts on the importance of listening to others and how it can save lives, help mental health related issues, and prevent suicide, I wanted to do a follow up on those two topics. I have had writers block for almost three months because my mind has simply been preoccupied on school and just overall life-related stuff but suddenly I woke up and it was like I got hit by a train of thoughts of everything I couldn't get my hands to write about for weeks!
In light of suicide prevention month, I felt it is only right and NECESSARY to elaborate on active listening and proactive ways to help prevent suicide. It is very helpful to suggest the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) but there needs to be more of a focus on noticing behavioral changes in a person. There's this never-ending myth that you never see suicidal ideation's or behaviors in a person, prior to attempting or committing suicide.
When a celebrity or someone passes away from suicide, immediately what is thrown around is the NSP Hotline number and then things calm down and no one talks about it until the next unfortunate loss of someone to suicide. Suicide is the elephant in the room and it is absolutely absurd to me and I will literally never understand why it remains the elephant in the room. Life can get really hard for some, if not all of us at some point or another, and not everyone knows how to cope with the situations life throws at them.
Every time I post anything regarding suicide, someone has something negative to say, "you shouldn't say that", "you need to talk less about this" "talking about it creates the ideation" "why are you so inclined to talk about a topic people have a hard time talking about"... NO, not talking about it and having this on-going stigma on suicide that it "should not" be spoken about is what leads to it! I genuinely get bothered when people try to paint suicide awareness as enabling suicide ideation. What no one wants to talk about is pain, the feeling of emptiness. Why? Why can't we talk about those emotions? There is a lot we can and could fix in not only our lives but the world, by not just simply talking but emphasizing on listening to others rather than always feeling the need to 'fix' people. People are not broken and do not need to be 'fixed'.
We need to talk more about suicide and the warning signs in order to provide early intervention. Something no one wants to realize is, it is up to US to know the warning signs in order to prevent it. If sharing a hotline number in order to save another person's life is important to you, take the next big step in helping prevent suicides... LISTEN, LISTEN ACTIVELY. PAY ATTENTION PEOPLE!
I will never, and I mean literally never stop talking about mental health and trying to raise awareness. Be mindful about others lives, we all go through good and bad days. Pay attention to people, smile and say hi to the person with their head down. Ask how someone is doing and talk to them, even if you don't personally know them. But talk, not small talk, TALK. Meaningful, important talks, talks that matter. Ask people if they're getting enough sleep, what is going on in their head, how they are feeling. Ask if you can be of help in any way. We are surrounded by people on the daily basis, yet so many people feel alone.
If you're ever in doubt, reach out.
Knowing the warning signs to suicidal behavior is crucial and can save a life. The life of your family member, the life of your friend, the life of a complete stranger! We need to encourage others to talk. It's not about us telling others "things will get better, "don't let it get to you", it is about letting them talk. It has nothing to do with what we say, but what we do. If someone does express that they are experiencing suicidal ideation's or feeling "off", one skill which is we are not unfortunately taught, is to listen actively. Active listening skills is not something we are taught and most people never go out of their way to achieve said skill. Listening is a very basic skill, yet one that not everyone achieves properly. More often than not, people listen to respond.
If you keep physically active, you feel good. If you eat healthy, you feel good. If you eat bad, you feel bad. So, who is to say if you listen actively to others, they won't feel good? Hell, I feel amazing when someone reaches out to me and very often it is people I either have never personally met outside of social media or someone I never knew personally but have had contact with.
A very silent but popular ideology which irks me is the stigma on men (i.e. a man who expresses his emotions is a "wuss" or needs to "man up"). There is this absurd "social standard" that is much too common among people, especially young teenagers and adults, that men need to suck up their emotions and not talk about what they feel because it makes them less masculine... *crickets* I don't understand and will never understand why men are made out to be these huge, detached, emotionless human beings when really they have as much, if not MORE going on in their heads due to lack of comfort (or resources) in speaking to someone.
Rather than allowing men to believe that they are "weak" or "less manly than other men" men need to recognize that we ALL have our struggles and things like depression and suicide, is pretty common among men and not JUST women. Who are we to tell men they don't have emotions, as much as women do? Suicide is a global issue and mental health does not discriminate against women or men, black or white, American or Latin, African, Asian, etc. It can impact anyone, from the wealthy to the lowest SES (socioeconomic status) individuals.
We ALL deserve to feel safe and HEARD when we are speaking to someone. There is a difference between really listening to someone, and just preparing yourself to speak as soon as they are done speaking (if you think you've seen that sentence before, you probably have if you read my first blog post on the importance of listening to others). A HUGE part of overcoming mental health barriers is simply listening, which I cannot stress or emphasis enough.
You don't need to go to school or have a proper education to be aware of the warning signs of suicide and early intervention in order to prevent it. No one, and I mean no one is perfect. We are all flawed but that is what makes us so individually distinct and beautiful. But with a little selflessness and active listening, we can prevent suicide.
I have and will always make it a point to make it known I am here to listen to others, with nothing to gain in return but knowing that MAYBE, just maybe that person feels better after speaking to me. Active listening saves lives, probing questions save lives. Talking down and belittling the act of suicide, does not save lives.
Some common warning signs to suicidal behavior are as followed:
Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
Looking for a way to kill oneself
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
Talking about being a burden to others
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
Sleeping too little or too much
Withdrawing or feeling isolated
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Displaying extreme mood swings
(Warning signs were acquired via Save.org)
#BeThe1To support people and help prevent suicide. Together we can ALL save lives!
"If you have the courage to make it through a lonely night with nothing but your self-destructive thoughts to keep you company, darling, you have the courage to make it through anything."
Some helpful websites for suicide prevention and awareness information centers: