By Tyree Dingle, MS
Suicide Prevention Program Development Practicum Student at OHSU/Portland VA
Note: Talking about suicide can be an emotional topic, and if you’re reading this and not feeling up for it, that’s okay! However, if you want to know a little more about why Suicide Prevention Month is important, please read on. If you are seeking support, please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-8255.
2021 has been a year filled with anticipation, isolation, fear and confusion. Within the past 18 months, we endured radical changes to our daily lives to fight the spread of COVID, experienced unprecedented wildfires, witnessed a variety of injustices within our communities and nation, and most recently watching the withdrawal from Afghanistan leaving us all with a flurry of emotions. Plainly put, we’re exhausted.
We may be feeling the pressure from society, our work, boss, friends, or loved ones that it is time to “move on,” and I’m here to tell you that it is okay to feel whatever you are feeling. Practicing some self-kindness and flexibility for ourselves is more important than ever at times such as this. We have had a long year.
It is within the context of all of this that Suicide Prevention Month 2021, or SPM, emerges, and its importance can be felt. Suicide Prevention Month is intended to increase our awareness of mental health needs, de-stigmatize the discussion around suicide and help those who are struggling find the support that they need. Below, we’ll talk about some strategies and resources for finding some space during Suicide Prevention Month 2021.
Connecting with Others
Given the social isolation and changes in our lives due to COVID-19, we have had to navigate and learn new ways of finding connections. Whether we are connecting with friends, family, co-workers, pets, or communities, connection is something that we as humans need. Yet, connection is something that for many of us, we are struggling to find. Though we may be feeling isolated, even that unites us under this shared experience of knowing that you are not the only one feeling this way. If you find you are questioning this, I will tell you – I am feeling isolated in my life, it’s okay if you are, too. We are all going through this together.
If you are having trouble connecting with people, know there are numerous resources for finding connection – whether it is through online means or physical distancing. You might call a friend who you know is struggling and set up a physically distant gathering, or text a loved one and set up a virtual meeting just to catch up and see how they are doing. People often suffer silently, and now is the time for us to let them know they are not alone. Suicide Prevention Month is a time to intentionally reach out to our family, friends, and loved one’s whether they are struggling or not. It is a time to find connection in our lives for our own well-being and that of others.
Knowing Our Limits
Many of us have a lot on our plates. Sometimes the myriad stressors on our plates are referred to as our allostatic load – or the cumulative burden of chronic stress and life events – and for many of us, this load is capped or even overloaded and that is entirely normal given the chronic stress and changes that we continue to endure. It isn’t always easy to admit when we are struggling, even to ourselves. I encourage you, right now, to take a moment and ask yourself, “What’s on my plate? And what am I doing to take care of myself?” go ahead and reflect on this, I’ll wait…
Did a lot of things show up? How are you managing? If you’re having difficulty taking care of yourself or finding effective coping strategies – here are some ideas.
- Try some self-validation, which can be a very hard thing to do. Even just stopping to acknowledge everything that we are carrying on our plate and how hard it is to carry is a great step. Notice any resistance that showed up when I asked you earlier to take a moment to acknowledge everything that you are carrying. And if you didn’t before – I encourage you to try that now.
- Take a moment for yourself. The small things matter. Look at a beautiful flower, smell the scents in the air, call a friend, listen to music or the sound of the wind, take a slow deep breath, relax your neck and shoulders. The small things matter and yet they are often some of the hardest things to do and the easiest to talk ourselves out of.
- Remember to be flexible with yourself and others. We are in a time of constant change and it’s hard to know what comes next. Being flexible with yourself can take on a lot of different forms. It might be giving yourself approval for making a mistake or practicing being okay with not getting everything on your ‘to do’ list completed. It can also be letting someone else know that it’s fine they made a mistake or didn’t get something done on time.
Suicide Prevention Month can foster self-compassion and encourage each of us to check in with ourselves and ensure we are taking adequate care of our own mental health needs. Suicide prevention starts with ensuring we are taking care of ourselves.
What We Can Do If We Are Thinking of Suicide
If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, know where to find your supports and who they are. Experiencing these thoughts does not mean you are “crazy” or that anything is wrong with you. It just means you are struggling and struggling is a natural, human thing to do – something we all do.
So, if it seems helpful – take two minutes today and do something to help lower the load you are carrying for some breathing room. No matter how small it might be, it may be just enough. It can be difficult to know what to do, or what skillful action(s) we can take, when we are in distress. Taking some time now to do something for yourself can be a place to start.
Below are some general resources if you or someone you care about may need access to urgent mental health care. Often calling a crisis line can be anxiety-provoking – if you have the time, it might be helpful to practice or write down some of the things you wish to share with the person on the other line.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
- Press 1 for the Veterans Crisis Line
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
- Alcohol and Drug Helpline: 800-923-4357
- Mental Health Urgent Care
- Multnomah County: 503-963-2575
- Washington County: 503-846-4555
- Clackamas County: 503-742-5335
- County Specific Mental Health Hotlines
- Suicide Bereavement Support
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (Military- and Veteran-focused)
- The Dougy Center for Grieving Children and Families
- Call: 877-968-8491
- Text: teen2teen to 839863
- Crisis Lines for Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian, and People of Color
- Asian LifeNet Hotline
- 1-877-990-8585 (non-English options available)
- Racial Equity Support Line
- Asian LifeNet Hotline
- Food, housing, health, and other resources: Dial 2-1-1