#AAS16 in Chicago this year has been a blast, and I feel like I have really benefited from recharging among my excellent colleagues and friends. And I hope that you have benefited from the research I shared, as well as my live Tweeting and blogging about the interesting talks I have attended.
As this post auto publishes, I will be boarding a plane to return home to Fargo and to the work which I feel called to do. Namely, advocating for those without a voice and researching ways in which we can utilize peer relationships to protect our precious youth from depression, isolation, victimization, and suicide. And as my plane ascends to 30,000 feet above this beautiful land of ours I will reflect on why I believe that the study and prevention of suicide (suicidology) is an undertaking of which we all can be part.
Suicide does not just affect the person who dies by it, it has far reaching and long-lasting implication on survivors. Indeed, survivors experience extreme psychological distress as the result of the loss of a loved one. What is especially tragic is that many people die by suicide believe sincerely that their loved ones will be better off without them. As human beings who love other human beings we have a vested interest in preventing death by suicide. From fighting mental health stigma to learning how to create safe spaces, we can all work to end suicide.
Are you a survivor of suicide in need of support? Find a support group through Suicidology.org>>
Preventing suicide is simply the right thing to do. As Thomas Joiner so poignantly said in his book, Myths About Suicide, “no one should have to die alone in a mess in a hotel bathroom, in the back of a van, or on a park bench, thinking incorrectly that the world will be better off.” Those who experience suicide ideation literally feel isolation from others and feel like they are a burden. Often these feelings are inaccurate, but they are outside of the control of the person who is experiencing them. A hallmark of humanity is our capacity to feel the suffering of others and to react with compassion, and the best way we can reach out in compassion and help those experiencing suicide ideation is to 1) know the signs and 2) know how to respond.
Preventing suicide does not just happen in face-to-face situations. It is becoming increasingly more common that it has to be confronted online. In my research, I have investigated the ways in which we can utilize social media in suicide prevention. And what my colleagues and I have found is that college students and young adults are likely to recognize suicide content online, correctly interpret its severity, and intervene appropriately. And currently I am investigating what factors are associated with increased odds of intervening in response to suicide disclosures, and early findings suggest that previous experience with suicide is associated with providing support. What this tells me is that ordinary people can make an incredible impact in the life of someone who is experiencing thoughts of suicide. Indeed, such peer interventions could mean the difference between life and death.
Do you want to help prevent suicide? Join organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention>>
Because suicide occurs when individuals feel disconnected from others, feel like a burden to others, and have overcome the fear of dying, the most important thing we can do to prevent suicide is to reach out to those in need and provide them with the support they lack. This is why suicidology is for everyone because everyone can reach out and support another person in need.
If you are in crisis and need a place to start, please visit the Crisis Center>>
If you are in need of support, please know that I am Here for You!