>> STACIE BYRNE
Before I talk about suicide, I want to mention another life-ending s-word: silence
Winter is full of silence. No birds chirping. No bees buzzing. No sounds of children playing or people riding their bicycles (except for a few fat-tire folks). But with spring, the silence gives way to sounds of rainfall and the world slowly coming back to life. When we stay silent about the other s-word—suicide—we are as silent as the cold winter. Talking about suicide can be difficult. But the consequences are worse than an uncomfortable silence.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, or know someone who is, the first priority is to stay safe one day at a time; find ways to choose life over death even when it seems most difficult. If you are having thoughts of suicide:
First, you are not alone. If you reach out and ask for support, you might be surprised how many others have been in your shoes at some point or another. If you can—before crisis hits and the frontal lobe is flooded so that rational thought is less available—make a safety plan. Think about who you trust to help you, distract you, make you laugh, bring over their dog to visit or just listen. Identify what it is you need, and seek out that type of support. Not everyone is good at everything, so find a team of people to support you.
If you feel you cannot keep yourself safe, call 911 or go to the hospital. There are new training protocols in place to better support people with thoughts of suicide.
If you are supporting someone with thoughts of suicide:
Number One: Take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup. If you want to be there for someone else, you have to make sure you are well enough and have looked after yourself in order to be there to support them. If you can, help them find other support.
Be open and non-judgmental. One in four people will experience a mental health challenge in their lifetime. Rather than thinking, “How do I keep this person from having thoughts and acting on them?” Think: “How do I keep this person from choosing not to die today?”
This spring, I hope we all wake up, stop being silent and start talking about suicide.
— Stacie Byrne, Project Lead, CYMHSU