World Suicide Prevention Day 2021

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. On the one hand, I am constantly wondering why every day isn’t suicide prevention day, why people don’t talk about suicide prevention as much the rest of the year as they do today, and why, even on today, not enough is being done. On the other hand, any initiative that draws more attention to suicide prevention is a good thing. And there are causes for hope.

Image from Knowsley News, UK; used here in accordance with the fair use doctrine.

One of the causes for hope on this World Suicide Prevention Day is the fact that more people are talking openly about mental health. Part of this is because the pandemic has shined a light on the need for more mental health services. Part of it is because high profile athletes like Michael Phelps, Naomi Osaka, and Simone Biles have also spoken up about the importance of mental health. And part of is simply that as more people talk about these issues, the stigma breaks just a little bit more.

Another reason for hope is the fact that in the United States a new suicide hotline is going to go into effect soon. Instead of 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), the new number will be 988. This number will be much easier to remember, and will be something similar to 911 that people can call if they are experiencing a mental health crisis. This new approach will hopefully make the suicide hotline more accessible.

However, there is still a long way to go in the fight to save lives from the darkness of depression. And in that aspect we need to remember that:

  • suicidal people can hide their pain well, with some suicidal people smiling and saying everything is okay;
  • suicide isn’t a choice, but it can be preventable;
  • little things like checking on a friend that you notice is starting to isolate themselves can go a long way; and
  • the more we talk about it, the more the stigma will break, and the more hope will be able to get in.

Suicide prevention can’t just be left up to crisis workers and other healthcare professionals. It has to be something that all of us get involved in. As I pause to reflect on where we are as a society on this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, I have hope that we have made progress. But there is still so much more to do. Hopefully, next year’s World Suicide Prevention Day will have even more progress.


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