I have not seen the new show called Thirteen Reasons Why which is a drama that discusses suicide produced by Selena Gomez but I’ve certainly heard many of my clients as well as my great colleague talk about. I do want to see it and will be seeing, I would like to share my point of views from a therapist who used to do suicide prevention trainings.
One of the biggest misconceptions from the general population is that talking about suicide will increase the risk of suicide happening. Studies show that, in fact, having the dialogue about suicide will actually decrease the chances of someone acting on those thoughts. It takes away from the stigma. In my practice as well as my work in general, I talk about openly about these thoughts.
Just like any subject on Mental Health, we need to increase the dialogue that is going on so that we can reduce the stigma and make people understand that mental health issues are as important as physical issues. I have had the privilege of talking to many people, I can clearly see that there’s been more dialogue than ever in regards to Suicide and mental health in general. Among others, Alexa Curtis has done a wonderful job about this education in several national media outlets.
The issue that I can see is that it lacks lots of context besides the 13 tapes. But it also needs is the complexity of what suicide truly is and what leads to suicide which is not simply because of other people, but those individual characteristics as well as other factors. Family history, genetics, and access to treatment among other things.
While it does a good job in letting people know to look for certain signs of suicidal ideation, it fails to let people know what to do about it. How do we approach someone who we may suspect is having those thoughts? What are ways to offer support, including professional treatment? Is there other things going on that may not have been visible to other people?
We need to recognize that we do not know how to reach out for help, even the most healthy people. How do we communicate that mental health is as important as physical health? Letting people know that there are ways of talking about it in counseling, in groups, on social media, as well as other ways to discuss this issue. The common misperception is that if you are suicidal, you will be hospitalized. While this is an option, it is not the only one.
I know that this starts a conversation but I think the conversation that is started is misguided; it is not about the glamorization of suicide, this should start a conversation about prevention and treatment. I am hoping we are able to have more of these open discussions in regards to mental health treatment and prevention.