Suicide Prevention is Political
I’m realizing the inadequacy of relationships, personal kindnesses, and hotline numbers alone.
When I think about the things that have allowed me to survive periods of suicidality, I think of people. Family. Friends. Doctors and nurses. Therapists. I think of loving gestures that helped me during particularly vulnerable and high-risk times. The four leaf clover from my aunt and uncle when I was in the hospital. My sister-in-law preparing a meal downstairs as I tried to muster the energy to get out of bed. The basket of succulents from my coworkers that appeared on my doorstep after a particularly hard day of intensive outpatient treatment. My husband removing lethal means from our home when I was struggling with intrusive thoughts.
I’ve remembered these relationships and actions often in my suicide prevention advocacy efforts. I’ve made personal recommendations to my friends and family about how to address suicide at the relationship level. But this year, confronted with a pandemic and a looming nationwide mental health crisis, I’m realizing the inadequacy of relationships, personal kindnesses, and hotline numbers alone. I’m recognizing that we can’t treat an overwhelming crisis like suicide as a problem with a solely relationship-level solution. I’m appreciating how much my own experience has blinded me to the experiences of those without a strong support system. So this year on World Suicide Prevention Day, I’m asking people to do something different to help prevent suicide. I’m asking them to see suicide as a systemic problem. And I’m asking them to make a plan to vote.
Suicide prevention is complex — and political. It’s a social justice issue. The decisions our leaders make directly affect the well-being of their constituents — and can impact whether those constituents die by suicide. Our current system isn’t working. Too many people don’t have access to the care they need. Too many people are living in despair because they can’t meet their basic needs. Too many people have access to guns during their darkest moments. There are gaping holes in our system that fail people who are suicidal or who might become suicidal.
While mental healthcare is an important part of prevention efforts, suicide prevention is not just about mental…