Photo via UnSplash.
Photo via UnSplash.

Around the world approximately 800,000 people die by suicide every year. According to the World Health Organization, that is one person every 40 seconds. These are alarming statistics, especially when you take into account the fact that for every death by suicide, there are more than 20 others attempting suicide. In the United States, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 10-34, and the 10th overall cause of death in the country (according to the NIMH). 

The reality is that as Catholics, we are called to help everyone live their best life. But we often forget this when it comes to mental health. We need to look for ways to walk with those who struggle. As a youth minister and someone who has her own mental health diagnoses, I look at these statistics and try to find a way to talk about suicide in a productive way. The problem is that there is a cultural stigma and fear that surrounds talking about suicide, mostly because the average person doesn’t understand it. So, let’s take away some of the misconceptions that surround suicide. 

First, there is no harm in having a genuine, authentic conversation with a friend or loved one, if you are concerned about them hurting themselves or taking their own life. Having a conversation with someone about their current mental state and your concern about them will not put the idea of suicide in their head. If you are concerned, then they are probably already thinking about it. Just be honest in your care and concern for them. Listen to what they are saying without judgment and try to put yourself in their shoes. Look at the resource section below for help in having these conversations.  

Secondly, there are three parts to the thought process of someone who is going to commit suicide: ideation, plan and opportunity. We all have moments where a thought floats through our head, “What would it be like if I wasn’t here?” or “What would happen if I didn’t wake up tomorrow?” For many people it is just a passing thought, but for others it gets stuck in their brains and becomes suicidal ideation and they can’t move on from it. 

Those who do feel like they have a safe place to talk about their thoughts and feelings may be able to talk them out and move on. Others who don’t, may start to put a plan together. At this point, conversations with trusted friends, leaders and professionals may help stop the thoughts and planning from moving any further. Once someone makes their plan and finds their opportunity, it takes people asking questions, in very pointed language, to stop someone from attempting suicide. It takes people who are willing to walk with the person and stand with them, to talk them through the messages that their brain is sending them and help them find the resources that they need to move through the moment and into a safe place where they can get help. 

If you are reading this and are considering suicide, please reach out for help. There are people in this world who care about you, even if you don’t know it. Give yourself the gift of tomorrow. 

Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Take the chance to tell the people around you how they make your day better. You never know how a smile or a compliment that you give may save someone’s life.  

Resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call: 1-800-273-8255 (24/7)

Crisis Text Line: Text: 741741

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org
NAMI: www.NAMI.org

To Write Love on Her Arms: www.Twloha.com/findhelp

Grace Fay is the Pastoral Associate for Youth Ministry at Our Lady of Grace Church, Ballston Lake and St. Joseph’s Church, Scotia.