Don't call it Suicide Prevention. We don’t say birth prevention or gun prevention, so how about a new name for combating the 10th leading cause of death instead of Suicide Prevention?

The Mental Health Academy recently held the 2019 Suicide Prevention Summit, an international two-day, 20-hour conference.  For me now, hearing the word “suicide” is like . . . swallowing a razor. The pain bothers me through the day and keeps me up all night. After 20 hours, I’m a human sharps container.

Instead of Suicide Prevention, let’s say Suicide self-Control.

Suicide is a leading public health concern that is beginning to be openly talked about, so let’s use the right words. We don’t say birth prevention or gun prevention but rather birth control or gun control. Give young adults access to birth control and we reduce teen-pregnancies. And no one has a problem with gun control when we temporarily remove a gun from a deranged person’s house. The suicidal mind is a deranged mind, and all lethal means, including guns, should be removed while a person is in crisis.

Prevention means, “I’m trying to stop you from harming yourself.”

Self-control conveys a powerful message. “You are trying to stop yourself.”

However, Suicide self-Control does not mean doing the work alone. It means developing inner-discipline by working collaboratively with a therapist/counselor/doctor to come up with life-long solutions to a momentary yet re-occurring crisis.  It means coming up with a Safety Plan.

During the conference, I noticed that clinicians, doctors and professors no longer say “commit” suicide but rather “complete” suicide and “attempt” suicide. Because those who attempt and complete suicide are not criminals.

Also, many did not say “assisted suicide” but rather “death with dignity” and “assisted death”. Because value-neutral language matters. Suicide is a loaded term, a social stigma, and the terminally-ill patient often wants to live, just without pain.    

By day two of the conference, being talked at by professionals with initials had left me exhausted.  But I found a way to laugh. When talking about suicide . . . LAF!

    LEAN-IN.         ASK.         FOLLOW-UP.

When someone expresses emotional pain, lean in and show concern. Listen to their story. Ask the question, “Are you thinking of harming yourself?” Follow-up with referrals, and later with a phone call just to check in. It makes all the difference.    

Finally, therapists are learning to sit side-by-side with their clients, instead of facing the suicidally-minded person. When someone sits next to you, they convey, “I’m with you, we are solving the problem. Together.”

    But when they're sitting across the table, “I’m against you, confronting and stopping you.” How about when you’re on a couch, with a therapist out-of-sight and behind you?  Makes you feel like a marionette’s puppet. But maybe some people need that. Otherwise they end up in the hospital.

And speaking of hospitalization, leading research is starting to agree with me: Don’t go to the hospital, this makes it worse. The experience can make people more suicidal. Um, yeah! I feel like most of these professionals have never spent the night in a psych ward (*caveat: sometimes you have no choice. Life or death, right?).  Which is why a Safety Plan is so important. 

I found it reassuring to know that suicide is not contagious. Hopelessness is. The SUICIDAL MIND attempts to persuade the sick person and those around them to “Give up hope!” But as a friend or family member, you have to convince them otherwise.

    How? Cognitive reframing: switch from talking about Reason for Dying to Reasons for Living.   

And finally, the last therapist of the conference said, “Clients, not research, are the best teachers!”

You’re welcome.