International Survivors of Suicide Day is in November on the Saturday before Thanksgiving (November 21, 2020) and promotes coming together and supporting the survivors of this tragic event. When someone commits suicide, they affect everyone who knew and loved them. For those people, grief and trauma can be especially difficult. Because the death is self-inflicted, coming to terms with the reasons and the stigma associated with it often makes it hard to grapple with, which is why they need all the support they can get.
History of International Survivors of Suicide Day
Suicide has been viewed differently over time. It’s been both condemned and condoned depending on the location and the religion of the society. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are against it, while the Brahmans of India tolerate it. In ancient Greece, people who were convicted of crimes were allowed to take their own lives making suicide acceptable on a conditional basis. In Rome, the principles changed near the end of their empire.
Western society used canon law and then criminal law in an attempt to decrease the rate of suicide in the middle ages. The effect it had on society was minimal, however, as suicide rates remained the same. After the French Revolution of 1789, the criminal penalties for attempting suicide were abolished for European countries, but it took England until 1961 to join them.
While the suicide rates for adults in the United States didn’t change much from 1950 to 1980, suicide rates among younger people increased significantly. Those most affected were young white males aged 15 to 19 which increased by 305% and from white males aged 20 to 24 it was 196%. Mental health officials had to broaden their understanding and the roles that drug and alcohol, mental illness, suicide clusters, and the availability of firearms affected society.
In 1999, US Senator Harry Reid introduced a resolution that led to the creation of International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. Reid lost his father to suicide in 1972 and the cause was close to his heart. It was then designated into Congress and placed before Thanksgiving as the holiday season can be a hard time for survivors. Every year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention supports Survivors Day events all over the world and the peace that it brings.
International Survivors of Suicide Day timeline
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.
International Survivors of Suicide Day is created by US Senator Harry Reid after his father committed suicide.
Suicide rates among younger people increase significantly.
- 5th Century B.C.
Canon law and criminal law is put in place to deter suicide, but it has little effect.
- 8th Century B.C.
Suicide is condemned or condoned depending on location and the religion of the society.
International Survivors of Suicide Day FAQs
Who sponsors Survivors Day?
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsors Survivors Day.
Is suicide related to depression?
Most people who die by suicide have an underlying mental condition.
How can I help prevent suicide?
Asking someone directly if they’re thinking about suicide oftentimes starts a conversation and gives them relief.
How to Observe International Survivors of Suicide Day
Attend a Survivors Day event
UHS offers Survivors Day events that allow you to find share in the messages of healing and hope. Some of these events screen movies and documentaries about coping with suicide after a shared loss. They depict all of the difficult stages including denial, isolation, grief, and the ways in which you can heal from the pain. If you aren't able to go in person, you can view the program online at www.afsp.org/SurvivorDay.
Write it out
Art is a great way to express yourself when times get difficult. Grab a journal or use your computer to write down your thoughts. This can be in the form of a poem, a story, or just a journal entry. By expressing yourself, you can come to understand your feelings and where they’re coming from. Turning something difficult into something that’s true and beautiful can also make you feel like you have more control over it.
Attend a local grief support group
It can be scary telling your own story to a group of people, but support groups offer safe spaces for you to meet with others who have been affected by suicide. It’s a place of understanding as individuals grapple with the hardships of living with it. You'll have the benefit of speaking with and hearing from professionals with the capacity to help you get through your own battle.
Five Facts About International Survivors Of Suicide Day
Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.
Close to home
Nearly 50% of people in the US know someone who has died by suicide.
LGBT youth are almost five times more likely to attempt suicide.
Every 11 minutes
On average, one person dies every 11 minutes by suicide.
Highest suicide rate
Guyana has the most deaths by suicide.
Why International Survivors of Suicide Day Is Important
Remembering the victims
Because of the nature of suicide, it can be harder to deal with the death of a loved one. Survivors Day reminds you to remember the good times that you had with them and not just the way in which they died. Holding onto good memories is a positive coping mechanism and allows us to honor them without guilt.
The survivors need attention
When someone takes their life, it affects everyone within their community. Friends, family, colleagues, and more have to sort through their feelings to understand their own emotions regarding it. On Survivors Day, we take the time to stop and focus on the resources that can help them get through.
It connects us
Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond our own pain and it gives us feelings of isolation and sadness. There’s still a high amount of social stigma associated with suicide and it can feel like you can’t reach out. On this day, we’re reminded that it is a global issue and that none of us are alone.