As the holidays approach, International Survivors of Suicide Day reminds us that this time of year can take a toll on survivors around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year. However, that number doesn’t begin to tell the stories of the people who took their lives not fully realizing their potential. Plus, suicides have a devastating impact on family and friends.
The day falls on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. On November 17, let’s come together for healing and mutual support.
International Survivors of Suicide Day - History
The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention responded to a need
The group was founded to work with hundreds of national partners in the public and private sectors to transform health systems and communities, while also changing the national conversation on suicide.
Lawmakers passed important youth suicide prevention act
The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, named for the son of Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, whose son died by suicide in 2003, is a program that distributes grants to states, tribes, territories, and college suicide prevention efforts.
U.S. Congressional guidelines created a national suicide prevention strategy
Using former United Nations global guidelines, the U.S. created "A National Strategy for Suicide Prevention" that coordinated efforts across government agencies including the private sector and among community organizations.
A senator's personal grief launched National Survivors of Suicide Day
Senator Harry Reid, a suicide survivor, introduced the resolution designating the Saturday before Thanksgiving as National Survivors of Suicide Day — a time for surviving families and friends to share resources and come together for mutual healing and support.
First American suicide prevention center opened in California
The first publicly funded suicide prevention center opened in Los Angeles.
How to Observe International Survivors of Suicide Day
1. Go on a suicide prevention walk
Join other survivors on their journey to heal from one of the most personal kinds of devastating loss. Survivors may experience trauma — from perhaps finding their deceased loved one after the act to having to fend off the morbid interest of outsiders. Walking with others who have survived the loss of a loved one can help survivors raise funds for education, research, and advocacy — as well as be a way to dig deep for additional strength and, hopefully, forge new connections with those who understand their pain.
2. Remember your loved one with a memorial page
Setting up a memorial fund page on social media is a positive way to remember your loved one who died by suicide. It's also a way for family and friends to donate funds and begin the healing process. Post pictures of your friend or family member and maybe a poem or two.
3. See a therapist
If all the walking and fundraisers still aren't helping you to cope with the loss of someone dear who took their own life, maybe it's time to see a therapist. In times of devastating loss, sometimes talking with friends and family can only go so far. Speaking with a professional can give you a more objective way of looking at your experience in a completely safe environment. Check out the various suicide prevention organizations for referrals to counselors in your area.
4 Somber Facts About Suicide
1. It happens daily
An estimated 123 people kill themselves on any given day.
2. It claims more men than women
Men die by suicide over three times more often than women.
3. It's commonly carried out with a gun
Firearms accounted for over half of all suicides in 2016.
4. Native Americans are at risk
Suicide among Native Americans in the U.S., both attempted and completed, is more prevalent than in any other racial or ethnic group.
Why International Survivors of Suicide Day is Important
A. There's no one cause for suicide
Suicide generally results from people experiencing stress beyond their ability to cope. Factors include prolonged stress from bullying (including cyberbullying) and harassment, relationship or money troubles, rejection, divorce, and other life transitions or loss. Additionally, deteriorating mental health conditions can make someone prone to take their own life. These include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse, and different forms of aggression.
B. Warning signs are often present
Some examples: Changes in behavior with an increased dependence on alcohol or drugs, withdrawing from activities that the person previously enjoyed, isolating from family and friends, sleeping too much or too little, and giving away prized possessions. The person considering suicide may display changes in mood such as depression, anxiety, irritability, humiliation or shame — and occasionally, sudden improvement from previous low moods and/or sadness.
C. Suicide severely affects those left behind
Suicide is a global phenomenon that disrupts the lives of families in an instant. The suicide of a loved one can leave them struggling financially and emotionally. In some cultures, there is a stigma associated with people who kill themselves — one that adds to the tremendous guilt survivors may already feel. Fortunately, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) organizes and supports Survivor Day events in more than 300 locations in America as well as in 18 other countries worldwide.