Today, news broke that the world lost one of my heroes to suicide. I love food and cooking with a passion, and Anthony Bourdain was responsible for that in no small way. Earlier this week, we lost a brilliant icon in the fashion world to suicide. Kate Spade was responsible for at least one person I care for choosing a career in fashion. Yesterday, the CDC released a report that in over half the states in the US, suicide rates increased by over 30% since 1999. Suicide is a scourge that affects us all.
The CDC report notes that over half of the people who died by suicide had no known mental health condition. They also note that this data comes from record reviews, and it’s possible that those who died suffered from an undiagnosed mental health condition which was never reported or treated. The report highlights the multifaceted nature of suicide and its causes. The American Association of Suicidology has a ton of resources, including a list of common myths about suicide.
Our slogan at Take This (“It’s dangerous to go alone!”) isn’t a witty aphorism. I mean, it kind of is, but it’s also so much more. Our slogan is the foundation and guiding principle of everything we do. Mental health challenges and suicide thrive in silence, darkness, and isolation. It allows them to fester and mutate into something more monstrous than we could imagine. That monster lies to us. It lies convincingly and fools us into thinking we’re alone, that nothing will ever get better, and that there is not other solution. Forgive me, but that’s bullshit!
In all the people I’ve known and all the thousands of people I’ve worked with, I’ve never met a person who was truly alone, even if they couldn’t see it at that time because of the stupid lies their brain told them. Sometimes they ask if I truly believe there’s hope for them that they can get better, even a little bit, and I always say the same thing: “The day I stop believing your life can improve is the day I need to change careers.”
This all being said, there are a few things you can do if you are feeling concerned for someone in your life. Our friends over at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention have the following six tips for you.
- Talk to them in private
- Listen to their story
- Tell them you care about them
- Ask directly if they are thinking about suicide
- Encourage them to seek treatment or contact their doctor or therapist
- Avoid debating the value of life, minimizing their problems or giving advice
If you are the one feeling suicidal, there are numerous ways of getting help. My rule of thumb is that even if you’re debating if you should reach out to one of these resources, you should reach out. We have a list of resources on our website, but here are a few important ones if you’re in the US:
- Dial 9-1-1
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
- Reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741
Both the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Text Lines handle all sorts of crises, so they aren’t limited to suicidal thoughts. If you’re looking for someone to talk to about things on a more ongoing basis and you’re not in an immediate crisis, check out our guide for how to find a therapist who works for you.
We’re rooting for you at Take This. You bring joy and meaning to someone, whether you know it or not. It might feel like an admission of weakness to speak up and say you’re suffering. It’s not. It’s one of the bravest things you can do.
Be kind to each other.
Raffael Boccamazzo (AKA “Dr. B”) is a doctor of clinical psychology and clinical director of Take This. He also runs a private psychotherapy and psychological assessment practice in the Seattle area and works as a social skills coach, often using tabletop role playing games to teach social skills for older teens and young adults with high functioning autism spectrum diagnoses.
Take This is an informational organization. The resources we provide are for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a health care or mental health care professional.