Now, I realize that suicide is not a topic most people openly want to talk about. But sometimes we have to. I guarantee that everyone knows someone who has died by suicide, if they haven’t experienced it in their own family or close circle. Suicide is a global crisis that every country admits to, but doesn’t know how to solve.
As a mom of a daughter who died by suicide in 2005, I was thrilled to recently learn that a 9-8-8 national suicide hotline number has been proposed for Canada. I remain hopeful the motion makes it before Parliament for a vote within weeks, and that it is approved and turned into law within the next two years. I agree with mental health professionals and advocates that the hotline will be a game-changer for Canada. It will transform the way we think and talk about suicide and improve support for those at risk who call in. I am certain it will save lives. People just have to call!
A few days ago, I came across this article that shockingly (for me, anyway) told the story of a young Norwegian woman who tracks Instagram’s dark web for anyone at risk of attempting suicide. This young watcher (she is only twenty-two) scrolls through her Instagram feed looking for signs of imminent suicide attempts on the more than 450 accounts she’s been given permission to follow. She intervenes when she believes it necessary to do so based on the type of content posted. Despite not being formally trained in mental healthcare, she alerts the police and ambulance services requesting them (sometimes pleading with them) to further investigate those individuals she identifies as critically at risk of suicide. Some of these professionals don’t always take her claims seriously. Sometimes lives are lost.
I’ve just returned from a month-long mini round-the-world trip that took me and my husband to Asia, Indonesia and Europe. Now, while most people who love to travel would probably have been excited planning, counting down the days to departure and actually travelling, I found myself, as always, in a state of neutrality more than I did excitement. More than neutrality, it is the state that anyone who lives with PTSD struggles with, not having the ability to feel excited about much of anything (which as an aside, is different from being able to feel gratitude). As such, I honestly could not rouse myself to feel anything more than hopeful that all would go well on each leg of the trip (which it did) and as much excitement as I could feel reuniting with our son in various locations for some quality time together. If anyone can drum up excitement in me, it’s my son!
Suicide is a topic that while gaining more and more recognition in terms of the global concern over increasing numbers of people both young and old dying, the reasons for people choosing to die remains baffling. It is estimated that 800,000 to over one million people die by suicide somewhere in the world each year (depending on which stats you read). One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds. The global suicide rate is 16 per 100,000 population. There has been an increase of 60% of suicide deaths in the past 45 years.
Focusing for a moment only on children and youth, suicide is the second biggest killer of young people worldwide. It is the same for Canada, the USA and is one of the leading causes of death in the UK for people 10 to 34 years old, with the numbers rising. Overall, suicide rates are the highest in Europe, followed by South East Asia, the Western Pacific (includes Australia and New Zealand) and the Americas. Probably, though this could be a stretch – I’m going to assume that most people don’t think about suicide unless they’ve been touched by it.