9/10/21: World Suicide Prevention “Real” Global Message

It’s become all too common to hear about the losses of public figures to suicides. We see pictures of their smiling faces before the tragedies – and the line underneath usually says something to the effect of: “this is what suicide looks like.”

It’s an attempt at normalization: “see, celebrities struggle too.” But as a society, we still aren’t openly talking about suicide – in schools, in offices…about HOW it can happen…about what goes on in the mind of those who have ideations. About what to expect if you start to feel these “error messages.”

My thought/fear then, is that those campaigns become less about normalization, & more about how the lifestyle of public figures can lead to suicide. The pressure to perform. The pressure of having your every move critiqued, etc.

While those are absolutely factors, I think it’s important for us to couple the celebrity stories, with the aggregate data of everyday people. Here’s some of that data:

48k deaths by suicide in the US last year, over 800k globally. Then let’s look at trends over time:

  • From 1999 thru 2018, the suicide rate increased 35%, from 10.5 per 100,000 to 14.2.
  • The rate increased on average approximately 1% per year from 1999 to 2006 and by 2% per year from 2006 through 2018.

*Looking at our youngsters: the rate of suicide in those 10-24 increased over 60% in the last decade.

This isn’t a celebrity issue. The world has gotten faster. Expectations are higher. Smart phones have made the brains work faster than ever. Think about dial-up AOL, getting 3 emails a day, to now 3 emails a minute. DMs on 7 different platforms. Comparisons on social media. Traditional media that (to compete w the fragmentation of options) sells doom & gloom & divisiveness to draw us in. It’s a LOT. And it contributes to these error messages & ultimately the higher rates.

Let’s commit to talking openly. About our own thoughts. Our own stress & trauma. THAT is what normalizes convo, more than a few celeb examples. We can be a big part of reversing the trends.

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