Hi! It’s your monthly dose of therapeutic thoughts with Amy. As I am sure you guys know, September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. What a heavy topic, right? Do you automatically want to close this tab and not read this blog post because it feels yucky to think about suicide? I know, I have felt uncomfortable just getting this one started.
Suicide. Such a heartbreaking subject on so many levels, affecting so many people. But, I pulled up my big girl britches, and decided I am going to write about this topic, despite this feeling, because that is how we are going to break the stigma that mental health issues aren’t “real health” issues. How much more “real health” can one issue be, than physically taking your own life?
Granted, I had an introductory crash course and addressing this topic a few months ago and I am going to share that experience with you. I hope that it can help you in the future should you ever have to discuss suicide with anyone.
This summer during a car ride from the grocery store, my kiddos, ages 6 and 10, hit me with the question, “What does suicide mean?” After pulling my mouth up off the car seat and doing some quick self talk (No, Amy you can’t pretend you don’t know and pass this off to their daddy…) we talked about suicide, what it means to commit suicide and why people would feel that was something they had to do to themselves. We talked about people feeling helpless and lonely and not feeling as if they’re able to talk to anyone. It was my 10 year old that really brought the conversation around when she asked, “Mommy, how do we stop people from feeling THAT sad and lonely?”
Out of the mouth of babes, right?! Children don’t know there’s a stigma surrounding mental health treatment. We encourage them to understand and learn about their emotions and we teach them how to manage emotions and feelings. So, of course, a child would want to know how we help others manage their suicidal feelings. As I write this, I can’t help but think how beautiful that is, children’s minds aren’t yet clouded with prejudice or judgement. Being the therapist that I am, and knowing that sometimes when you don’t have the right answer you can ask someone to answer the question themselves, I asked my kiddos, “What do you think we can do to keep our friends and family members from feeling lonely and sad? What can we do if we’re feeling lonely and sad and want to help ourselves feel better?”
My kiddos said:
“We should be nice to all people because it’s easy.” They said they should talk to their friends and trusted adults if they’re feeling sad or lonely or mad. Then my 6 year old said, “And we shouldn’t bully anybody!”
So, I say, they’re right. I don’t know at what age we stop helping children learn about emotions and managing them and switch to the mentality that mental health is a taboo issue that is not to be openly discussed. But, I challenge each of us to treat ourselves and the people we interact with as we would a child, allowing the freedom to feel and express emotions. Helping people learn positive ways to express their emotions. And if you just aren’t comfortable with any of that, be nice and don’t bully anyone!
Sometimes all it takes is a kind gesture or word to make a person with suicidal thoughts feel like things maybe aren’t that bad. Small acts of kindness really can be life changing, even life saving.
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency and need to talk, contact Louisville-based Centerstone 24-Hour Hotline at (502) 589-4313 or the National Suicide Prevention/Talk Line at (800) 273-TALK.