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