Resilience: A Pillar of Hope in Suicide Prevention

mental health Sep 12, 2023

Suicide has touched each of our lives in different and profound ways. Maybe you’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts yourself. Maybe someone you love died by suicide. Maybe you’re supporting a friend who has lost someone. No matter how this topic has impacted you, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is a critical time for us all to join hands, share knowledge, and renew our commitment to addressing one of the most pressing public health concerns of our time.  

Research has shown that there are both risk and protective factors against suicide. When we increase our awareness of these factors, we can work to protect ourselves and others. One of the most important and often overlooked protective factors is resilience. Let's dive into the powerful connection between resilience and suicide prevention, and why it matters so much to cultivate this quality in ourselves and those we care about. 

The Current Picture 

Globally, more than 700,000 lives are lost to suicide each year. To put it in perspective, that's roughly the population of San Franscisco or Seattle. Suicide is a leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults worldwide, and it is the second leading cause of death among individuals ages 10-34. In the United States, suicide ranks as the 10th leading cause of death.  

These statistics remind us that behind every number is a story, a family, and a community affected by the devastating impacts of suicide. And most importantly, they are a call to action. 

The Shield of Resilience 

Resilience stands as a beacon of hope in the realm of suicide prevention. At its core, resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and adapt to life's challenges. In the context of suicide prevention, resilience serves as a protective factor, helping individuals navigate the darkest of moments, maintain a sense of hope and purpose, and find their way back to healing. 

So, why is resilience so crucial in preventing suicide?  

First and foremost, resilient individuals have a greater capacity to cope with life's hardships. They can withstand emotional distress, manage stressors effectively, and maintain a sense of purpose, even when facing despair. This kind of emotional strength is vital when confronting the intense emotional pain that often precedes suicidal thoughts. 

Resilience also invites hope to the table. People who are resilient believe in their ability to overcome tough times. That belief can be a lifeline when someone is struggling, giving them a reason to keep going and seek help. 

And finally, resilient people are better at communicating their experiences and asking for help. Resilience empowers people to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, making them more aware of when it’s time to ask for support from friends, family and mental health professionals. 

Helping Others Build Resilience: Your Role in Suicide Prevention 

If we want to make a real difference in suicide prevention, one of the most impactful things we can do is to help others build resilience. Let’s talk about the traits of resilient people and some practical ways you can support your loved ones in building it – because resilience saves lives. 

Resilient people are problem-solvers.  

When difficulty arises, they look for practical, realistic ways to improve the situation. They focus on the things that are in their control and work to systematically tackle them one by one. They take breaks and rest when they need to. They also know that sometimes in order to solve the problem, they need to ask for help.  

How to help others become better problem-solvers: 

  • Model problem-solving behaviors and healthy stress management techniques 
  • Ask them to identify what is inside their control vs. outside 
  • Help them create a step-by-step action plan when encountering hardship 
  • Encourage them to seek professional help when needed: Remind them that reaching out to therapists, counselors, or mental health professionals is a sign of strength, not weakness 
  • Offer to assist in finding appropriate mental health resources and accompanying them to appointments if necessary 
Resilient people are self-compassionate and self-aware. 

Self-compassion and self-awareness are foundational to strong mental health. Without self-compassion, people fall victim to self-doubt, low self-esteem and negative self-talk. Without self-awareness, people feel disconnected from their internal experiences, stuck in negative thoughts and emotions, and unable to manage their reactions. Helping someone cultivate these qualities in themselves is a powerful gift and can make all the difference in their long-term ability to cope and persevere. 

How to help others become more self-compassionate & self-aware: 

  • Ask specific questions about what a loved one is feeling and thinking: for example, “What thoughts are you having right now? What emotions are you experiencing? Why do you think you feel that way?” 
  • Practice mindfulness together: deep breathing exercises and meditation can help us stay present, tune into what our minds and bodies are telling us, and let go of past and future thinking 
  • Write down a list of daily affirmations together and hang them up somewhere where you can both see them every day. For example, “I am worthy” “I am loved” 
  • Be open and honest with loved ones about your own internal experiences 
  • Validate their emotions, emphasizing that they are not alone 
Resilient people rely on their social support. 

When adversity strikes, the power of social support is undeniable. Other people and other perspectives can help us get unstuck, offer alternative solutions and point us in the direction of recovery. Research has shown over and over again that one caring person can make all the difference in the life of someone who is struggling. Be that person to someone you think may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.  

How to help people strengthen their social support: 

  • Initiate & encourage open and honest conversations and let them know that you are there to listen without judgment  
  • Create a safe space for them to express their thoughts and feelings 
  • Express interest in their hobbies and passions 
  • Invite them to be a part of your own social network  
  • Encourage them to get involved in the community through volunteering 
  • Lead by example in demonstrating pro-social behaviors such as expressing gratitude, showing kindness, or donating your time or resources 

By actively engaging in these strategies, you can play a vital role in helping your loved ones build resilience and contribute to suicide prevention efforts.  

The Bottom Line: Take Action 

As we navigate Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and beyond, let's remember that resilience isn't just a personal quality; it's a gift we can give to those around us. By actively supporting others in their journey to become more resilient, we contribute to a culture of hope, understanding, and compassion—a culture where suicide is preventable. 

In this season of awareness, let resilience be our guiding light. Individuals, families, and communities can emerge from the darkest moments into the light of hope and recovery. Let's build resilience together and strive for a world where lives are saved, hope is renewed, and the promise of a brighter tomorrow shines for all. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out for help from a mental health professional or a crisis hotline. You are not alone, and there's hope for a better tomorrow. 

  • Call or text 988 to speak to a trained crisis counselor 
  • Crisis Text Line: Text “Home” to 741-741 
    • Crisis Text Line is here for any crisis. A Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds from a secure online platform. 
  • SAMHSA National Helpline: Call 800-662-4357 
    • A free, confidential, 24/7, treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders 

Check out this Suicide Prevention Month Resource Guide for more resources & strategies for supporting loved ones.  


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