Rewrite history so that no point is final: suicide prevention is a global challenge, and September is the month to reinforce this fight in Brazil and the United States. Despite being different countries and with different characteristics, both structure campaigns in favor of mental health and combating suicide.
In the case of the US, the matter is urgent since suicide is the tenth causes death most common in the country, but second among the young population.
“Many people think that richer countries have more resources to prevent suicide among their population, but unfortunately, what we have seen is that this is not a priority issue for some of the largest nations in the world”, evaluates Dr. Holly Wilcox, teacher at John Hopkins Schools of Medicine and Public Health.
Part of the challenge in structuring a comprehensive and efficient approach to suicide prevention has to do with our lack of knowledge and the excess of misleading information, such as that which associates depression and anxiety with suicide. “These diseases may be related to a person’s desire to take their life, but it is not a predictor,” he explains to Brazil in fact Psychologist Bart Andrews, Vice President of Clinical Analysis and Practice at Behavioral Health Response.
“We need to normalize suicidal thinking, not behavior. Suicidal thoughts are a very normal response to stress, to feeling hopeless, to feeling helpless, to feeling overwhelmed. They start with an escapist ideation; with a desire to escape the pain It’s an absolutely natural human response, different from suicidal behavior. The latter we don’t want to normalize,” he points out.
A suicide survivor, Andrews is critical of media coverage of events involving people taking their own lives. For him, talking about the cases in which people manage to kill themselves, instead of focusing on survivors, sends a “very bad message”.
The spectacularization of suicide takes important data out of context, especially when we talk about its nature. “Suicide is obviously connected to psychology and biology. It is connected to mental and brain illnesses, but it is also connected to our environment”, says Daniel Reidenberg, executive director of the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, “this means that economic, social, religious and cultural factors weigh on this account, it is not something exclusively biological or mental.”
To change the game, Reinberg advocates a comprehensive approach, but with federal and local ramifications. “It’s great to have a national plan, a national strategy to prevent suicide, but it’s at the local level that change really takes place. We need people at the front, to be there and support and identify what resources are needed to make a connection effective,” he says.
In a way, explains the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, it was this strategy that made suicide numbers drop, even during the pandemic. “I think people have been much more intentional about their connections during this period. When it comes to suicide prevention, the more connected you are to faith, family, community events… the more connected you are, the better for you. And during the pandemic, what we saw was that, even though people had to be more isolated, so they couldn’t necessarily be in physical proximity, people took the initiative to stay more connected with those they love, calling, writing and guaranteeing presence.”
In the United States, 51% of suicides happen with a revolver shot. In addition, Reidenberg highlights the opioid crisis as another decisive factor for the worsening of this condition.
According to data from American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, nearly 130 people take their lives every day in the country. CDC statistics show that more than 47,000 people committed suicide in the United States in 2019, which means we lost 1 American every 11 minutes. Also according to the federal survey, 12 million people seriously thought about suicide, while 3.5 million planned for it and 1.4 million actually tried.
All these numbers just don’t win hope – the same CDC report points out that 93% of the population believes that suicide is something that can be prevented. The first step, perhaps, is to talk about it sincerely, empathically and responsibly.
Edition: Thales Schmidt